Reel Talk: “Ex Machina” is one of the best artificial intelligence movies ever made

ex machina By Sean van der Heijden

I know that is a bold statement, but hear me out. “Ex Machina,” written and directed by Alex Garland, is essentially a three-way mental game between Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), Nathan (Oscar Isaac), and Ava (Alicia Viaknder)—who’s basically a female robot. The whole movie centers around Caleb, a young computer programmer, participating in an experiment testing the human-like qualities of a female A.I. It’s a deceitfully simple premise that raises hundreds of philosophical questions and leads only to shocking twists and turns.

The film is sleek beyond belief—streamlined down to its essentials, the camera never lingers a second too long, and mimics the hyper-modern research facility that acts as the setting. Nothing within the film is wasted, and nothing is superfluous. In that sense, it’s a refreshing break from all the CGI-heavy, dumbed-down Hollywood blockbusters. “Ex Machina” is way smarter than that.

It actually cares about its subject matter, and it cares about its audience. Artificial intelligence is tricky to portray, but Garland makes it seem so plausible that it becomes a terrifying possibility of our near future, and at the same time, a glaring critique of our present. Ultimately, the A.I. is presented as a living, sentient being, raising questions such as: do A.I.’s have consciousness of their state of being, or do they simply perform tasks? Is it humane to mistreat an A.I.? And, most importantly, how do A.I.’s react to us.

I’m not saying that the films offers any answers, but it lets you come to your own conclusion in a finale that literally had me on the edge of my seat with my mouth agape, totally unable to process what was happening before me. It’s Hitchcockian-style psychology and intensity, taut direction, and incredible production design, soundtrack, visual effects, sound effects, and cinematography easily make it the best film of 2015 so far.

Also, the acting. Isaac and Gleeson are very good as the drunken, billionaire creator of the A.I. and the bewildered computer programmer, respectively. But Vikander easily steals the show as the manipulative and sensual Ava. She simply disappears into the role and makes the A.I. so incredibly life-like and yet so distinct at the same time. She steals the screen every second she’s on it.

So if you want a thought-provoking, well-made, highly entertaining, and unbelievably gripping film away from the mainstream movies we’re fed today, I highly recommend this one. It’s just mind-blowing.

Overall: 9 out of 10.

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