There’s a difference between film and cinema, and Ex Machina clearly eminates the clear line between the two.
By Michael Menendez
Alex Garland, known mostly for writing cult favorites like 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and the remake of Dredd, makes his directorial debut with this movie and clearly has a promising career as so ahead of him. The film centers on Caleb (Domhall Gleeson), a computer programmer working for Bluebook, the world’s most popular search engine. After “winning” a contest to spend a week with the founder of the company, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), he is extremely surprised to find out what the week is sent to entail: a Turing Test with Nathan’s newest creation: Ava.
A highly advanced A.I., Ava blurs the lines for Caleb as to what it means to be human and what “human emotion” really means plays in to both his actions and Ava’s with drastic repercussions. The film is a gorgeous piece of cinema, with Alex Garland’s signature style seeping through the cracks of a film that has very few to fill. With this film, while entrenched in science fiction, has an eerie sense of what could be soon to come in our future.
Just like Caleb, it feels like the viewer is in the same test as Caleb himself, always wondering what fuels Ava’s thirst for company of the human as well as what makes her tick (quite literally). Domhall Gleeson, with his role in the soon-to-be phenomenon that is Star Wars: The Force Awakens alongside Oscar Isaac, provides us a fairly clear cut protagonist, giving the audience someone to root for given his past as well as his sense of boyish innocence.
Oscar Isaac, as the secluded and somewhat mad scientist, shines in his role as best he can, but, just as Domhall Gleeson is, is overshadowed by Alicia Vikander as Ava. Her A.I., brought to life by a mixture of live action and CGI. With her spot on performance, the audience is forced to ask questions (that are never really answered throughout the film) about the human soul as well as what it truly means to be human as a whole. This is not to say, though, that there is a weakness between the three actors, as they smoothly transition between what emotions are to be had between one another.
Although the highlight of the film is in the acting and thought provoking ideas, something must be said about the direction that is given by Alex Garland. Clearly drawing from his work on movies with high-profile directors such as Danny Boyle, Garland creates a visual style that is highly impressive and realistic, something that isn’t hurt by the great cinematography done by Rob Hardy.
With all this being said, Ex Machina is a thought provoking movie as well as visually arresting, something that rarely go hand in hand in Hollywood nowadays. Garland decides to not go in to too much detail as to what “powers” Ava, giving a fairly clear cut answer that keeps from taking away from the greater overall questions of the film. Still, though, if a straight forward answer is what one goes into the theatre looking for, then they will leave disappointed. Therein is the point of the film.
Garland’s goal is to not provide the answers for the audience, but rather to make them question the ideals of what it means to be human, and, in Nathan’s case, how far to go to find the line between human and A.I. someone will drive themselves (in his case, secluding himself in a highly secure prison of sorts, with the prison being his own life’s work). While Ava steals the show, it is the idea and morals of what went into the creation of Ava that drives the film, something that can never be seen on screen but only through watching the film and walking out questioning what was just watched.
While this movie is science fiction, it truly blurs the lines between science fiction and science fact, in the same way that Ava blurs the lines between being human and A.I., creating an enthralling and horrifying film that embodies what may be to come in a not-so-distant future.
Michael Menendez is a student at the University of Central Florida, where he majors in journalism.