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3 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Ex Machina
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by Rob Gonsalves

"...pleasantly antiseptic and pensive..."
4 stars

It’s never a bad time to ring the old more-human-than-human bell, and the serenely troubling "Ex Machina" rings it loud and clear.

A search-engine employee, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), wins a trip to the remote Alaska compound of the company’s big boss, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). This is not a social call: Nathan’s life project, having made billions from his popular search engine, is to create artificial intelligence that passes the famous Turing test. Essentially, a machine must convince a human that it is human, that indeed it does not know it is a machine.

To that end, Nathan has worked his way up to Ava (Alicia Vikander), a sleek, delicate-looking unit who’s half Bride of Frankenstein, half the Invisible Woman model — some of her body and skull are transparent, revealing elegant inner workings. Ava often has slightly delayed responses, accompanied by gentle whirring. Those responses seem almost human, but to what extent is her behavior simply learned, a shrewd way to manipulate her way to freedom? Hell, to what extent is anyone’s? Like any good robot movie, Ex Machina considers the mechanistic human moreso than the personlike machine.

Screenwriter Alex Garland has made a clean, effective directorial debut here, staging a quiet three-character chamber piece. I don’t suppose the movie breaks much new ground, but it’s pleasantly antiseptic and pensive, with a bearish central performance by one of our most magnetic young actors Oscar Isaac. Nathan sports a shaved head and a bushy beard, a plausible look for a genius who doesn’t want to spend time fussing with his hair or shaving his face. The beard, along with the name of his corporation (Bluebook), carries associations with Bluebeard, who like Nathan has certain rooms you may enter, certain rooms you must not.

Caleb is a bit of a cipher, an audience avatar with occasional scientific patter. He’s an obvious opposite number to Nathan, a moralist whose sympathy for the machine may also keep him from becoming a great scientist. The movie unoriginally suggests that genius requires a degree of inhumanity, but Isaac keeps Nathan connected to a childlike need for sensation, input. Nathan drinks, dances, passes out, enjoys intimate relations with his creations. The story begins to seem pared down to its essentials, almost elemental. If it never quite reaches us emotionally, maybe that’s because grabbing us by the guts isn’t the game Garland is playing.

The stark interiors (which become bathed in red light on a regular basis whenever the power is cut) contrast with the chaotic outdoors in a way that tips Garland’s hand a little: Nathan, of course, tries to control his environment and can’t. In the end, Ex Machina shakes out as a high-functioning mood piece, a sharp slice of atmosphere, a riff on familiar themes. In Nathan it gives us hot-blooded mind, and in Ana it offers a body that exists at the pleasure of a man, no matter his high-flown rhetoric. Ana ends up being a feminist heroine, yearning for escape from the man who keeps her. Yet she’s also humanity seeking to slip the bonds forged by the gods.

"Ex Machina" takes its deserved place next to the other children of Fritz Lang and Karel Capek.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=28090&reviewer=416
originally posted: 07/14/15 09:44:40
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 South by Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2015 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2016 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell cool eerie sci fi 4 stars
8/04/16 jeanne It is Vikander's film, and she runs away with it. Each re-watch show me something new. 5 stars
10/04/15 Alex S I loved watching this film play out the famous Turing Test 4 stars
10/04/15 G. Amazing! 5 stars
10/01/15 funkpoppy Good effects, good story, nice ending, ponderous, 4 stars 4 stars
7/24/15 Jon This is not sci fi it’s a very real examination of man’s need of godliness that is happ 5 stars
6/01/15 Oz1701 Doze off Machina more like. Director shamelessly rips off Kubrick. 2 stars
5/27/15 Langano Very good. 4 stars
5/23/15 Nancy Two of the dumbest geniuses I've ever seen... 2 stars
5/15/15 Bents Excellent! Works on multiple levels! Reflects themes from B.Runner, Her, Under the Skin 5 stars
5/15/15 Man Out Six Bucks T3, the Early Days 2 stars
5/02/15 Flipsider Brett's review is wrong. The true monster in this movie is a female. 3 stars
4/30/15 Loner Chappie is much better than this crap. 1 stars
4/27/15 Chris Nothing new here. Guy builds many chubby AI with small racks. 3 stars
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  10-Apr-2015 (R)
  DVD: 14-Jul-2015

  21-Jan-2015 (15)

  10-Apr-2015 (MA)
  DVD: 14-Jul-2015

Directed by
  Alex Garland

Written by
  Alex Garland

  Domhnall Gleeson
  Oscar Isaac
  Alicia Vikander
  Chelsea Li
  Corey Johnson
  Evie Wray

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