a critiQal film review Ex Machina (2014)

Plot: Caleb Smith (Gleeson) a programmer at a huge Internet company, wins a contest that enables him to spend a week at the private estate of Nathan Bateman (Isaac), his firm's brilliant CEO. When he arrives, Caleb learns that he has been chosen to be the human component in a Turing test to determine the capabilities and consciousness of Ava (Vikander), a beautiful robot. However, it soon becomes evident that Ava is far more self-aware and deceptive than either man imagined.

486 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 25s)

When I was looking for a film to review for today, I decided I was in a sci-fi mood. So, when Ex Machina showed up on my radar, it seemed like a good choice. Something sci-fi that would make for an enjoyable couple of hours, right? Well, yes…and no.

Alicia Vikander takes center stage as Ava, a robot equipped with an advance AI, in Ex Machina. She is both robotic in her movements and graceful in her expressions. It’s a powerhouse performance, and will keep the viewer tuned in throughout. There is never a doubt in the viewer’s mind that this is a robot turning human…and it’s not the special effects that make that the case at all. It’s Alicia.

Domnhall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac are really the only two other major players in this locked-room scenario, and they also turn in strong performances. While Oscar plays the Steve Jobs-like eccentric genius to a T, Domnhall is the portal for the viewers, introducing the audience to what is going on, and delivering most of the key points of the film. He’s experiencing this along with the viewers, and his strong performance leads the viewer down the path Ex Machina is laying out.

Ex Machina manages to take the classic Frankenstein story and deliver it into the new age. Much stronger than Will Smith’s I, Robot (2004), this film personalizes the question AI enthusiasts are currently pondering: what is the line between robots and humans? As technology increases, that line continues to be edged, and Ex Machina does a spectacular job of presenting a near future where that line is a blur. While the film does stray a bit, the original concept is delivered in a personable and creative fashion, with only a handful of characters.

Unfortunately, just as the film is really starting to develop a sense of importance, it strays into other realms simply put there to make the viewer feel uncomfortable. With the deep sense of foreboding that is evident throughout the film, Ex Machina turns a smart update on the Frankenstein story into more of a slow-building mind-twister that just feels a bit too uncomfortable. While it hints at plot twists that could have been interesting, it’s slow-moving finale, while achieving the expected goal (for the most part), feels a bit too drawn out.

With strong performances from Vikander, Gleeson and Isaac, and it’s update on the classic Frankenstein story, Ex Machina really has a strong basis to grow on. But with it’s underpinnings of dread throughout, and sequences that just make the viewer feel uncomfortable, it’s a bit too sci-fi noir for many. While it gives viewers a smart glimpse at a future that could be just around the corner, there’s just something about Ex Machina that makes the viewer feel just a little bit slimy.

It will make you think, but it may also make you want to shower too.

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