Ex Machina– 4.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

ex machinaEx Machina – 4.5/5 – There is something to be said about storytelling.  In its purest form; when you tell a great story, everything falls into place.  The appeal of everything within the film is heighten with greater grandeur; but still finds a way to stay pure for the story.  Ex Machina is a film that plays with a theme used a lot (the creation of A.I.); but because of the methodic pacing and focus on characters; I can whole heartedly say this is the best film of the year (so far).

Premise: A young programmer is brought to the estate of the person that is the CEO/creator of his company.  He is brought to participate in an experiment with A.I.  With the question of ‘what is human’ Can this young programmer find what is human, while also finding the truth behind what the CEO is trying to achieve.

At the heart of this film is it is strongly character focused.  With that, we are focused on three main actors/actresses:

Domhnall Glesson as Caleb

Oscar Isaac as Nathan

Alicia Vlkander as Ava

All of them do a great job in grounding the story on the most simplistic scale.  The ideals and themes are played on a sophisticated scale; but are drawn down to that grounded appeal because of the conversations, relationships and bantering between them.  You get a sense of wonder, awe and intensity while watching these three act on screen.  Each of them plays a significant role; as they add layers to the progression as well as develop uniqueness in their own character.  With the immersion you get with the Caleb/Nathan dynamic as it plays against the Caleb/Ava trial session; you see how it is both complex and intriguing.  You watch as Nathan and Caleb have two interesting thoughts on the development of A.I.  What they see as morally right and what is human creates conversations that show their character; as well as their own self-interest.  As this happens, we also see how Caleb’s relationship with Ava (the A.I.), develops within their trials.  There is an endearing sense of humanistic quality, one that plays with trust, love and deception.  This is strongly found in Ava.  With her complexion of being the A.I. developed character; her mystery draws you in.  Her intention seems pure, but because she isn’t technically human; her purity is always in question.  The irony about her; is how her mysterious intentions draw out the rawest emotions from the other two.  The idea of what is human as it plays within these three is a scary feeling, one that comes out immensely through the characters here.   When it comes to the secondary cast; there really aren’t many (since the focus is on the three).  They are more as story placeholders then actual characters.

As mentioned; this is a character driven story; revolving around themes that have been used many00 times before.  What makes this film stand out more than any traditional Sci-Fi film is how the direction takes the characters and infuses it with that theme.  In doing so, the film has a very ‘realistic’ sensibility.   As the film begins; it is a quick setup:

Caleb is picked by Nathan (the CEO/creator of the company he works for) to come to his estate and work/test something that will revolutionize the world.  Nathan introduces Caleb to Ava; his creation of artificial intelligence.

From this premise; it feels very simplistic.  The irony is what is on the surface, goes deeper than what is expected.  Once Caleb gets to the Estate, the film goes down a complex road, where we see that Caleb was part to be set against Ava in ‘trial sessions’.  These sessions are to answer one question: can Artificial Intelligence be real and have a human conscience.  This theme can be consider by most as overplayed; but presented against a great script, characters and overall tone; it can come across as thought provoking and original.  In the case here; you are completely enraptured within the characters and themes they are playing with.  With the idea of A.I.; Nathan presents the questions for Caleb to answer.  Can he find the human element within Ava?  As the film moves at a slow/methodical pace; it allows the characters to becoming endearing, as this endearment parallels the tone of the story.  This allows for that gripping sensations; where the rawest emotions and qualities of being ‘human’ come out.  The mystery provokes enough questions in the audience; that you feel as if you’re part of the trials.  The idea of ‘what is human’ is played on both an emotional and intellectual scale; where we want to believe what we are seeing can be pure; but there is enough ‘blindness’ that deception is brooding.  That aura bleeds into the tone, creating something ominous and intense.  The sensibility of this ‘one direction’ flow is a high point, allowing a focus on being a very strong character-driven plot.  This allows the audience to see the themes clearly; feel the questions deeply and know that ideally, this film presents a really scary situation.  You feel the human element play against the ideals of creating AI and the ramification.  As much as you’re intrigued by the ideas of ‘playing God’; you’re also scared at how ‘realistic’ the consequences are for what Nathan has created and what Caleb’s trials bring to the forefront.  Once we get to the film’s climax; the questions asked come to some varied fruition.  The foreshadowing of the slow building helps create an intensely gratifying climax; that is also ominously eerie.  That feeling is layered within both the unpredictability of what happens as well as the raw human element that comes from all the main players.  Once we get to the epilogue; everything is left ambiguous; but at the same time entertains the thought for us to still ask, ‘what is human’.

The visuals of the film are both amazing and grounding; a combination that creates a complexion that I have never seen in a Sci-Fi film. In the creation of Ava, you get a sense of awe and wonder; but also the fragility of what is grounded in being human.  The interaction of her with Caleb creates the realism that combines like color on a canvas, where everything is more real than in a fictitious setting.  The score is as brooding as the film’s direction and characters; helping add another layer of thrill to the moments in the film.

Ex Machina is a film that plays along a simplistic direction; but one that takes the unrealistic of ideas and ripples them in an ironic realistic fervor.  What is human and what happens when we create something like us; what are the flaws?  The ideas of A.I. played against human desires of creation helps mold a film that’s complex, character driven and deeply tonal.  Ex Machina is the best films of the year so far, and one endearing, amazing ride.  If you’re a fan of Sci-Fi; thrillers or great films; this is one for you.  You will not be disappointed.

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