Ex Machina (2014) Review

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(Ex Machina - 2014 - CC. Universal Pictures)
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“One day the AIs are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa. An upright ape living in dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction.” – Nathan, Ex Machina (2014)

Every now and then I watch a film that completely changes my perception of the field. Those films are extremely few and far between. I’d say the last film I reviewed that truly challenged the way I look at film would be the incredible American Beauty (1999). Going into a film not knowing what to expect is the best way to approach a film, and that’s exactly what I did here. So to say my experience of Ex Machina was enjoyable would be a truly incredible understatement.

Domhnall Gleeson is apparently someone I have seen in seven different films. Out of those seven, he is only recognisable to me in Ex Machina. The chemistry he and Oscar Isaac have on screen is truly perfect. The intrinsic writing throughout plays into that of the twists and turns seen throughout the film. Because of this writing and the performances throughout, its utilisation of deeper conversation works especially well. Remember at the start of Alien: Covenant (2017) where Guy Pearce talks to Michael Fassbender about life? Think of those scenes from the Alien (1979) prequels but amplify them as much as possible.

Recently I’ve been really wanting to watch an in depth and philosophical film and I’m not entirely sure why. Still, this definitely managed to do such a thing. The recent surge in Artificial Intelligence and what that means for humanity is brilliantly replicated here. This all comes down to the performance of Alicia Vikander as Ava, who truly does steal the show as the AI. Not only is her performance absolutely stellar in every regard, but the CGI to make her look like a synthetic AI is brilliant. I’m not sure how they do it, and to be quite honest I have no intention of finding out. Regardless, the special effects of this film truly are noteworthy, to the point where they revolutionise the film.

Just a quick reminder that Oscar Isaac’s performance in this film is possibly the greatest supporting role in all of 2014 (Ex Machina – 2014 – CC. Universal Pictures)

I’m not one to mention the plot of a film anymore, but the plot of this film is genuinely quite interesting. As a way of testing Ava’s ability to blend in with humanity, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) and Nathan (Oscar Isaac) attempt the Turing Test. Through a series of seven sessions, Caleb tests Ava on the basics of human function, all the while Nathan questions the relationship the two have together. Now on the surface that may seem very basic and straightforward. Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil anything about the film. It’s one of those films that truly needs to be watched. Actually, stop reading this review if you haven’t seen the film. There are no words I can put into context that would recommend this film sufficiently.

Much like The Hateful Eight (2015) uses a chapter break to indicate the next act of the film, Ex Machina does the same. Highlighting the sessions with Ava more or less breaks up the chapters and does so very nicely. Within these sessions we see some marvellous manipulation and chemistry between Gleeson and Vikander. What I found quite interesting is that it’s not until the very end of the film that Isaac and Vikander interact. That comment will make a lot more sense if you’ve seen the film.

Mesmerising. Awe inspiring. Truly brilliant. Those are genuinely a few thoughts that came into my mind in the build up to this film. Director Alex Garland really knows how to shoot a scene and make it involving for the audience. Every scene in this movie is crisp and polished, and to some extent that may in fact detract. There’s only so much you can do with shots of gorgeous landscapes and they do have a limited impact on the film. Still, that wasn’t my focus when watching this film. The focus instead should be on the amazing utilisation of lighting, camera angles and general cinematography. For the mood of the film to be set, all of this needs to be at peak performance, and it’s perfectly well done throughout.

Lighting is possibly one of the most crucial parts to a film. With Ex Machina that is brought to a whole new level. The utilisation of light and how it can impact the tone of the plot is a truly marvellous. Constantly using the colour red and contrasting it with that of white, clinical walls throughout was a really neat touch throughout. There’s a certain level of conflict present between these colours and it’s pretty clear as to why if you’ve watched the film. Unfortunately I won’t be able to share my opinion of what it means because it spoils the film.

Only reason I wanted to show the dance scene is because I was listening to a bit of Pulp as I wrote this review and somehow that reminded me of this. (Ex Machina – 2014 – CC. Universal Pictures)

See, there’s only so much I can say about this film without spoiling it. It’s very much one of those films where, the less you know, the better set you are to view. I bought this in a very spur of the moment fashion along with Maggie (2015) and a bag of crisps. I’d recommend doing the same. Go into the closest shop to you, grab a copy of the DVD or Blu-Ray, don’t even think about it. Avoiding the spoilers for this film is the only way you can really watch this film.

Not to get all, you know, sentimental or philosophical, but I will do for a minute. There’s one scene in particular that I thoroughly enjoyed in this film. There’s a scene where Ava puts on a dress as a way of appearing more human to Caleb. If it weren’t for the CGI that is made to make her neck and arms look like a synth mesh, you could have feasibly believed she was human. That shit genuinely scares me. Like, we’re at an age in technology where we could, at this point, have AI walking around with us. That is some next gen shit that I am not ready for. Sorry, don’t really know what the point of that paragraph was, I’ve decided to quit caffeine, that may have something to do with it.

Verdict

What can I say about Ex Machina that hasn’t already been said? Most are in agreement with that of my opinion, a truly perfect film in every regard. If you’ve ever watched Black Mirror (2011 – Ongoing) then you’ll feel right at home here. It’s dark, disturbing and above all perfectly acted. There’s not a step wrong within this film and it’s clear throughout. A tone of fear plays into these amazing performances so well. There are so many inquisitive and in depth talks between the trio of lead characters that it creates interesting and even fearful viewing. It’s akin to a lucid dream in that regard.

I think for this film to work you need to be genuinely scared of Artificial Intelligence like I am. As far as films go, I don’t think there are any out there that perfectly tackle what could quite possibly become a reality. It does so with such grace and ease that it makes such a difficult and interesting issue look simple. With dark twists and devilish turns around every corner and some phenomenal performances from everyone, Ex Machina has swiftly become one of my favourite films. Not just of the 21st century, but of all time. Yes, it’s that good, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not watching this one as soon as you can.


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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Ex Machina
Ewan Gleadow
I've been writing for various different places for roughly four or five years now. Currently focusing my writing on film reviews, politics and occasional game reviews. Hopefully you enjoy my work, be sure to contact me if you have any criticisms or praise.

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