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Ex_Machina - Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

ALEX Garland, as a screenwriter, has long been fascinated by the human condition and what it means to exist, as evidenced by his scripts for 28 Days Later, Sunshine, The Beach and Never Let Me Go. But his latest, which also marks his directorial debut, could just be his most challenging and satisfying work yet.

His latest, Ex_Machina, picks up as an IT expert named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a workplace lottery to spend a week at the island hideaway of his reclusive genius of a boss, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), where he is immediately invited to take part in a potentially world-changing experiment.

The task in question finds Caleb being asked to assess a robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander) to determine the level of her artificial intelligence: or, more relevantly, whether she could pass as human. Caleb must do this via a daily series of interviews overseen by Nathan, during which he comes to question the motives at play.

Garland’s film is essentially a three-hander that plays out within the confines of a single location but it’s far from stagey or stagnant.

Rather, it’s emotionally compelling, wryly humorous, fiercely intelligent and extremely tense. It’s also capable of provoking some clever debate on the nature of humanity and man’s compulsion for playing God. Taking it further, could man’s meddling with the scientific order ultimately spell his own downfall?

Far from being heavy-handed or manipulative, Garland’s film toys with viewers in an effortlessly entertaining way and even feels a fun ride to be a part of, while also a worthwhile workout for the brain.

Praise for this isn’t just confined to Garland for his cast excel too. Gleeson brings an endearing Everyman quality to Caleb, as well as a mounting sense of fear and paranoia, while Isaac mixes free-flowing charisma with glimpses of something possibly more sinister and self-serving. He is a fascinating enigma.

Likewise, Vikander, whose portryal of Ava is as striking physically as it is compellingly emotionally – her initial fragility slowly giving rise to a complex portrait of someone, or something, who could be either heartbreaking or dangerous.

The ultimate accolade one can bestow upon Ex-Machina is that it deserves to co-exist within the realms of the sci-fi greats. It’s that good.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 108mins
UK Release Date: January 23, 2015