Sunday, May 03, 2015

Ex Machina

Written and directed by Alex Garland, Ex Machina is the story of a computer coder who is asked to spend a week at the home of his reclusive boss where he meets and falls for the boss’ new android. The film is a look into the world of artificial intelligence where a young man not only is intrigued by this android but also becomes aware of his surroundings. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Sonoya Mizuno, and Oscar Isaac. Ex Machina is a haunting yet provocative film from Alex Garland.

After being selected to spend a week at the secluded home of a search engine company CEO, a young coder is asked to take part in a research to engage into a conversation with his boss’ new creation in an artificial-intelligent android. There, this young man not only asks this android named Ava (Alicia Vikander) many questions but also starts to fall for her as she expresses many human emotions as well as some dark secrets about what is really going inside this home where she is unable to really interact with humans nor go out of the house. It’s a film that plays into the world of man meeting machine but the machine has a soul just like any other human being but it’s in a world where it’s run by a creator who is paranoid and willing to see if he had creates something that will change the world.

Alex Garland’s screenplay is set entirely in this home in the middle of a mountainous forest by this CEO named Nathan (Oscar Isaac) who has spent years trying to create the perfect android as Ava becomes his latest and most accomplished creation to date. Yet, he is also very paranoid where he often drinks while watching everything that goes on it would eventually trouble his guest Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) who was invited for the week. Just as Caleb would ask Ava various questions, they would also endure a series of power outages where Ava would unveil some truths to Caleb about Nathan. Much of it would make Caleb uneasy from the questions that Nathan asks him about her artificial intelligence as Caleb is needed to see if Ava could pass the test to be human. Still, the test makes Caleb even more uneasy when he wonders what Nathan will do to her once Caleb is sent home.

Garland’s direction is very mesmerizing not just for its location where much of it is shot in Norway with a few city scenes shot in London. It’s also in the fact that Garland is creating a film that doesn’t play into many of the traditions of sci-fi but rather into something that is more about humanity and a machine’s encounter with humanity. Much of Garland’s direction uses a lot of close-ups and medium shots that play into the sense of claustrophobia and tension that emerges inside Nathan’s home where only two men, an android, and Nathan’s silent maid Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno). Garland does use a lot of wide shots and some unique visual tricks to play into some of the exteriors that includes Ava’s own idea of what it would be like to emerge on the outside. Especially as it adds to the sense of Ava’s longing to the outside world and Nathan’s determination to keep her in his home.

Garland also maintains that sense of terror as it relates to Nathan’s own paranoia as its second half doesn’t contain elements of horror and suspense but it’s told in a non-conventional fashion. Especially as Garland isn’t afraid to use some offbeat humor in which there’s a scene where Nathan holds a party with Kyoko as they dance to disco music much to Caleb’s own sense of confusion. Even in scenes where Nathan watches the conversations between Caleb and Ava are filled with a sense of dread and unease as there’s also scenes of sensuality as it relates to Caleb’s attraction towards Ava. It adds to Caleb’s questions into why Nathan build her as it plays more into a suspense-drama with sci-fi in its third act as it revels into Nathan’s desire for control and Caleb’s love for Ava. Overall, Garland creates a very intense yet mesmerizing film about a man falling for an artificial-intelligent android.

Cinematographer Rob Hardy does amazing work with the film‘s very colorful and entrancing cinematography with its usage of lights to set the mood for the scenes inside Nathan‘s home as . Editor Mark Day does excellent work with the editing as it does feature some stylish cuts from speedy-footage cuts as well as jump-cuts and montages to play into the drama and suspense. Production designer Mark Digby, with set decorator Michelle Day and supervising art director Denis Schnegg, does brilliant work with the look of Nathan‘s home and its rooms along with the props that were used to build the androids. Costume designer Sammy Sheldon does terrific work with the clothes that Nathan and Caleb wear along with the simple dress that Ava would wear to flirt with Caleb.

Hair/makeup designer Tristan Versulius does nice work with the look of the Ava character as well as the stylish wigs she would wear to make herself look more human. Visual effects supervisor John Lockwood does fantastic work with the look of some of Ava‘s exterior looks and body parts as well as some of the interiors of her body. Sound designer Glenn Freemantle does superb work with the sound to play into the sense of tension and suspense that goes in Nathan‘s home with some unique sound textures to play into the world of advance technology. The film’s music by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury is wonderful for its electronic-based score that ranges from eerie into the suspense to somber pieces for the drama as the soundtrack also includes pieces by Franz Schubert, Johann Sebastian Bach, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Savages, and Oliver Cheatham.

The casting by Francine Maisler is great as it features appearances from Elina Alminas and Symara A. Templeman as a couple of previous androids Nathan tried to build as well as Sonoya Mizuno in a terrific performance as Nathan’s very silent yet exotic maid Kyoko. Oscar Isaac is remarkable as Nathan as this internet search engine CEO who is trying to create the perfect artificial-intelligent android as he tries to maintain control in every way while being quite funny at times which adds layers to his very dark character. Domhnall Gleeson is amazing as Caleb as this computer programmer who is asked to test Ava as he falls for her while becoming uneasy about Nathan as Gleeson brings that naivete and curiosity to his role. Finally, there’s Alicia Vikander in an incredible performance as Ava as this artificially-intelligent android who is very engaging sexually and intellectually as she also displays elements of humanity in her conversations with Caleb where Vikander manages to find a sense of soul in a character that is essentially a machine.

Ex Machina is a phenomenal film from Alex Garland that features brilliant performances from Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac. Not only is it one of the more intelligent and compelling sci-fi films in recent memory but also manages to raise questions about the idea of artificial intelligence. Even if the machine is allowed to act human in every way where even a human being can fall for a machine. In the end, Ex Machina is a spectacular film from Alex Garland.

Related: Annihilation

© thevoid99 2015


Ruth said...

Glad you saw this one and loved it as much as I did. All three actors are terrific indeed and this is such a phenomenal directorial debut from Alex Garland.

Dell said...

Sucks I haven't seen this yet. Didn't read it because of that. Just wanted to say I plan on coming back to read it after I finally see it.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-I was blown away by it and was also turned on by the idea of an android as a woman. Plus, I also enjoyed the fact that it doesn't take itself too seriously.

@Wendell-OK. I hope you enjoy it as it is starting to go wide as it played in my nearby multiplex which is only a few minutes away from my home.

Anonymous said...

I keep reading so many great things about this...and now you're on board too!!! I can't wait to see this!!!

thevoid99 said...

@Fisti-See it! It really is one of the finest and certainly compelling films of the sci-fi genre in recent years. In fact, a lot of sci-fi films as of late have really brought a lot more than what is expected to the genre.

Lights Camera Reaction said...

Garland brings in many themes and questions throughout the film. The idea of religion and God is brought up a few times and done in a very interesting way. Ex Machina is a bold drama/thriller!
Glad you loved it.