Ex Machina feels somehow like stepping into familiar territory and whilst this may be considered a little problematic for a film that is essentially science fiction, it shouldn’t deflect ones attention from the fact that it still manages to feel fresh and innovative in doing so.
The parallels with both 2014’s excellent ‘Her’ and the much underrated, Kubrick / Spielberg offering, A.I are obvious; that of a man-made creation of artificial intelligence looking for love, acceptance and the need to satisfy an ever burgeoning curiosity. Ultimately, in very differing cirumstances and for one reason or another, both out-grow their ‘masters’ (for want of a better word).
Ex Machina is the story of Caleb (played by Domhnall Gleeson), the gifted coding employee and winner of an exclusive opportunity to spend a week with Nathan, the reclusive CEO of the world’s largest internet company; the company that Caleb works for.
Right from the off, Nathan, (played by very much the man of the moment, Oscar Isaac), cuts a rather brash, yet defensive and secretive character; personal traits that will be much in evidence throughout.
Sufficiently bowled over by Nathan’s work, reputation and his high tech ‘bunker / home’ hidden away in the most sweepingly majestic of remote locations imaginable, Caleb sets about helping his new acquaintance conduct the turing test sessions for his latest project; that being the world’s first true artificial intelligence, a girl robot named Ava, a visually perfect casting for the deceptively beautiful, ‘butter-wouldn’t-melt,’ Alicia Vikander.
As Caleb becomes more and more embroiled in the project, the week will not only reveal a number of his own personal desires and motivations, but a whole number of home truths about Nathan and the reasons why Caleb is actually there.
Fuelled by the simplistic yet powerful guitar and synth refrains of Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury’s soundtrack, (again familiar – think John Murphy’s soundtracks to Alex Garland’s previous ’28 Days / Weeks later’ films), Ex Machina sustains a feel of futuristic wonder offset by a continued sense of menace that hangs heavy in the air.
If I’m honest, I think if I hadn’t seen A.I or Her, Ex Machina would have packed slightly more punch than ultimately it does, but there are still enough twists and turns in the plot and a visually most impressive and crucially not over-done use of C.G.I, believable in every sense, allowing Ex Machina to very much stand on its own two robotic feet and to be considered every bit as good as its very excellent forerunners.
Much like the early months of last year, 2015 seems to be positively oozing with quality offerings and Ex Machina sustains that level.
Visually sumptuous. Futuristic yet organic. Another Alex Garland success.