What modern science fiction should be
Holy crap I love this movie. I almost let it slip by, too. The film was released back in April to great critical success, but little commercial success. So I let it sneak by back then. But, as time has gone on, the film has grown quite the cult following, so I decided to give it a go. And I can see why it has garnered the following it has: it is easily the smartest discussion about the potential consequences of creating a fully self-aware AI ever seen in a film. The directorial debut of Alex Garland, this man has easily established himself as one of the best sci-fi minds out there right now thanks to his amazing writing prowess. Before writing/directing Ex Machina, Garland has also written other cult classics, including 2007's Sunshine and 2002's 28 Days Later. His next film is the film adaption of Halo, and after that he has another interesting film coming out, a biological thriller called Annihilation. To say I'm excited about those films after seeing this is certainly an understatement.
The problem I have though is it is so hard to talk about this film without spoiling anything. And I don't want to spoil it for you! This is definitely a film that you should experience at your earliest convenience, especially if you are fascinated by the idea of the creation of AI. The story here is engrossing from start to finish and full of discovery. Within moments of the 108 minute film I was sucked in and trying to catch everything that was happening on screen at any given moment. Because not only is this story engrossing, but the cinematography is too. Why? Because Alex Garland has a respect for something that has been lost in most films today: mise en scene. (The art of providing hints about the story or a particular character in the scenery around the shot or how the shot itself is presented.) There is so much of this forgotten theatrical element in this film.....I was honestly quite giddy because of it. There is an awesome video essay about this film already on YouTube that you can check out here AFTER you've seen the film, but seeing the clues I missed just made me want to watch the film again even more.
This film is brilliant, but on top of the engaging story we have some phenomenal performances from the three main characters of the film. Once again, Domhnall Gleeson kills it in his role, and Oscar Isaac is phenomenal, (again) but here the one who steals the show is Alicia Vikander. I didn't really buy here character in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but here she is phenomenal as the AI Ava. This is a performance that required every part of her body to be convincing as an AI, and she nails it. Additionally, her costume is spectacular. The design of this AI and the daily preparation the crew had to do for Vikander to play this AI really needs to be commended. They could've very easily green-screened this film or just had someone wear all green on set and CGI her face onto this person, but they took the practical route and actually designed a costume for Vikander to wear. The makeup crew also had to play their part with Vikander, and they too did a wonderful job.
I really can't emphasize this enough, guys: Ex Machina is one of the best films of the year. Easily. I know I've been throwing that around a few times recently, but it's also that time of the year. About the only criticism I have of this film is that, while it delivers a spectacular and thought-provoking discussion on AI, the film does borrow a bit from previous sci-fi classics. I definitely could see some comparisons between this and the legendary 2001: A Space Odyssey. But I think Alex Garland did this intentionally. And do I think this is a bad thing? Absolutely not. Some may also have a bone to pick about the ending, but as its resonated with me I've really come to think it is as appropriate an ending that we could've received. All in all, I believe the criticisms of this film are far too minor to really take note, and the fact that I've been thinking about this film non-stop OVER Star Wars: Episode VII for the past few days really shows just how thought-provoking and resonating this film is. In my opinion it is perfect, and deserves only my second 10 of 2015. Well done, Alex Garland.
The Critique: Modern sci-fi at its finest, Ex Machina is easily one of the most thought-provoking films about AI in the history of cinema. One of the best films of 2015.
The Recommendation: A must-see, Ex Machina is truly worth 108 minutes of your time. Please find a way to see it.
The Verdict: 10/10 Perfect.