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Review: Ex Machina (2015)

Director: Alex Garlandfile_124561_0_exmachinaposterlarge

Writer: Alex Garland

Stars: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac


“One day the A.I.’s 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.”

It is the strength of this quote that lays out the foundation of this movie and sets the theme up for us. “Ex Machina” is a wordplay from the known term “Deus Ex Machina” which translates from Latin to “God from the Machine”. Therefore the title means “From the Machine”

Caleb is a computer programmer who is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence. He wins the opportunity through his company and gets to spend seven days with the CEO at a secret location. The CEO of his company, Nathan, is a recluse and spends lonely hours and days by himself working with on various A.I. programmes, trying to nurture and develop them.

Caleb then meets Ava, the A.I. unit he has been selected to ‘test’. The series of tests he conducts runs over a period of seven days and he reports his findings back to Nathan. Nathan is somewhat arrogant and occasionally intimidating and through a series of power outages, Ava reveals key details of who he really is and what his intentions are to Caleb. Caleb then begins to confirm to himself that Ava’s suspicions are true and as he finds himself willing to help her, he also finds himself falling for her.

Writer/Director Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later)  has produced a piece of cinematic magic. A well produced script supports the viewer and directs them to exactly where he wants them to go. It is in the development of the script that allows us to select a side, it’s the classic good vs. evil scenario and we are forced to choose a side, but the side you select could be the wrong one.

Domhnall Gleeson portrays the role of Caleb, a calm and content individual who has interest in the sheer brilliance of the creation of Ava. Gleeson’s performance is confident and fulfilling. Oscar Isaac is superb as the arrogant CEO, an exact opposite to Gleeson’s character which helps balance out the play of the story. In the middle is Ava, played by Alicia Vikander, appearing in both full human and part CG forms, but never deflecting the believability of the character throughout the story in a natural and wonderfully graceful portrayal. The CG effects are fantastic and subtle at the same time, meaning that they are not over the top and don’t overshadow the storyline which gives Ex Machina its real strength.

Garland has taken a snapshot of a bitter and bleak possibility of a future that we all could once be living in. It asks questions and gives the answers to potential outcomes as the pace of our technology that we develop gets out of control and paints a daunting picture. The script is crafted in such a way that we are both certain and uncertain of the correct choices that are made and becoming clouded by the reality that can be expected from a wrong choice. Garland described the future presented in the movie as “ten minutes from now” meaning that “if Google or Apple announced tomorrow that they had made Ava, we would be surprised, but we wouldn’t be that surprised”.


His beliefs echo the statement of the movie.