Ex Machina (2014) – Alex Garland

Alex Garland wrote and directed this stunning film, his first feature, that explores the concepts of Artificial Intelligence and the desire to live and survive.

When a young programmer, Caleb (Domhall Gleeson) wins a contest to spend a week at his boss, Nathan’s (Oscar Isaac), remote estate, he loves the idea, when Nathan reveals that he wants Caleb’s help on a project he’s working on, he’s intrigued, and signs a very comprehensive NDA.

From there, he’s introduced to Ava (Alicia Vikander),a humanoid robot that may or not be the pinnacle of artificial intelligence, something Nathan has brought Caleb in to test. But Nathan is a genius, and eccentric, and not everything is as it seems, as things begin to take on a life of their own, and Caleb begins to question everything around him.

The film took home an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Visual Effects (it was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay) , and their work to bring Ava to life is something to behold. That combined with Vikander’s performance makes Ava a very believable character, and perhaps the most human one on the screen, as both Caleb and Nathan are so set in their ways, intent on their goals.

There are lies, deceptions and manipulations at every level of the film, and no one can be completely trusted, and as more is learned about each character the idea of truly knowing someone, and understanding their intelligence, and what drives them can be illuminating and frightening.

Ex Machina is a brilliant film, smart, never talking down to its audience and lets each of its leads shine in their turn. Vikander, in particular, as Ava is truly something to see, because you never don’t believe that she’s an intelligent machine – the effects and the performance are that good.

And with the fact that the arrival of Artificial Intelligence is an inescapable fact, a question of when not if, this film becomes all the more relevant and its impact hasn’t lessened since it’s release.

Everyone in the film shows that they have their character down, and Isaac’s turn as Nathan is truly unnerving, as he slides from friendly to uncomfortable in the space and delivery of a line. And while this film isn’t going to appeal to everyone -it’s meant to create a dialogue not just entertain, it should be on the watchlist of science fiction and tech fans around the globe.

Garland continues to prove himself a name to watch when it comes to thoughtful and engaging science fiction, that could take place tomorrow, and I will continue to follow his work.

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