Ex-Machina (2015) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Ex-Machina (2015) Directed by Alex Garland. With Domnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander.

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Written and directed by Alex Garland – previously best-known as a novelist and scriptwriter – Ex-Machina is a beautifully shot science-fiction parable about a gifted computer programmer (Gleeson), who is presented with a unique opportunity to participate in an experiment in artificial intelligence by assessing the level of humanity present in Ava (Vikander), an A.I created in the likeness of a beautiful young woman.

Aesthetically, the film looks absolutely stunning. The majority of the story takes place in the chic confines of a “research facility”, which is home to a scary-looking Oscar Issaac, playing Nathan – the equal amounts eccentric and intense creator of Ava. The facility alone is a thing of beauty, welcoming and incorporating the surrounding nature while maintaining stylishly fashionable minimalism. Then, there are parts of the facility that begin to feel like a soulless spaceship. A prison, even. It is here where this claustrophobic, thought-provoking psychological thriller begins to unfold.

As Ava, Alicia Vikander is a wonder to behold. I have said this before, but the best compliment you can pay any CGI animator is to say that you forgot you were watching an effect. Ava is a true fascination to both us and Domnall Gleeson’s starstruck character. We live the film through his eyes, making minute-by-minute decisions about what is afoot. Oscar Isaac adds to the growing sense of unease with a performance that switches between three or four gears – none of them particularly endearing (actually, he can dance).

This is the kind of low-key science-fiction that lasts. It doesn’t shout for attention, preferring to keep character and ideas front and centre. Between the striking compositions of Rob Hardy’s gorgeous photography and the subtly effective electronic soundtrack – there is a juicy juxtaposition of danger and beauty.

The film ponders many things – making observations and asking questions about “What defines true consciousness?”. In creating free-thinking consciousness – “Are human beings playing God!?”. Considering the advances of technology, these questions are becoming increasingly pertinent to our lives. Whether we like it or not, our everyday relationship with technology is rapidly advancing. Ex-Machina seems to suggest that we have a deep, hidden desire to replace ourselves. Underneath the framework of the central plot, Garland’s design is to make us question it and ourselves. What do we want from all of this? Where is it going? How does it better us? Can we trust it?

Deep and meaningful discussions aside, Garland manages to capture that chilling sense of creepiness present in most of the best science-fiction films. Think of Kubrick’s 2001, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner or even Duncan Jones’ Moon; all stellar sci-fi and all very unsettling. Add Ex-Machina to that hallowed list. 5/5

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About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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35 Responses to Ex-Machina (2015) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. I like your analysis: “This is the kind of low-key science-fiction that lasts. It doesn’t shout for attention, preferring to keep character and ideas front and centre.”

  2. I finally got around to watching this the other day. it is an incredible film, I was extremely impressed and I couldn’t agree with your review more.

  3. Jay says:

    Still probably the best thing I’ve seen so far this year.

  4. Great work Gareth. This is definitely one of the most compelling, thoughtful films I’ve seen this year. Excellent performances from all three too.

    Adam.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you very much. It’s already June, and this is the first 2015 film I’ve managed to see. I’d be surprised if I see many that are as good or better.

  5. I am going to see it tomorrow. so check out my review.

  6. filmfunkel says:

    I loved this film! As always; a fine review. : )

  7. I absolutely loved this film. nice review! what did you think of the ending though? that was the one aspect of the film that didn’t quite hit all the sweet spots for me.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you, Joel. I’ll avoid talking specifics regarding the ending, in-keeping with my promise to avoid spoilers – but I liked the ending very much. I recognise that there’s a lot of ambiguity there, but it was just further fuel for my imagination to work overtime.

  8. bryancyr says:

    Another great review! I really look forward to seeing this film when it comes out on Blu-Ray. I wish this was in wider release at the theater,so it might have played in my neck of the woods. I have also nominated you for The Dragon’s Loyalty Award! Here is the link:

    http://everythingnoir.com/2015/06/04/my-first-award-dragons-loyalty-award/

    Keep up the good work!

    • garethrhodes says:

      Wow! Thank you so very much – that’s very kind of you. If you lived in my neck of the woods, I’d lend you my copy to enjoy. It’ll be worth the wait to see it, when you finally do. It’s one of those that just grabs you right from the off.

  9. Do you read FilmCritHulk’s stuff? His breakdown of this movie was eye-opening.

  10. Shane Ongley says:

    Great review, I loved the hell out of this movie.

  11. ghostof82 says:

    Still can’t decide if Ava is ‘good’ simply striving for freedom or hellbent on eventually making us extinct (does the notion of ‘good’ or ‘evil’ even mean anything to an AI?). We are fooled into empathising with her because she’s a) ‘female’ b) beautiful but she’s surely manipulating both Gleeson and us. She discards Gleeson as soon as she no longer has use for him. Actually let me correct that- Ava is an IT not a she. It has no gender. Its a sexless AI approximating a gender for its own end. And humans are somewhere beneath it on the food chain. A sequel ten years on would be fascinating.

    • garethrhodes says:

      If Garland were to write and direct a sequel, I would have full faith. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the sort of film to get a sequel, though. I just hope that he continues to write engaging, intelligent sci-fi like this. Thank you for the response – good to read your opinions.

  12. Max says:

    Excellent review, an enjoyable depth of analysis for a quick read. Eagerly anticipating your future posts.

  13. Mattamatix says:

    This is the second time I’ve heard it compared to moon so I’m totally sold. This was the one film that I gutted to miss when I went traveling.
    Will get it on the download this weekend.

  14. Well written review..sometimes I feel like I missed something on this one as I found it slow for the 1st 30min or so, then very predictable till the end…which I loved for NOT being predictable. I keep thinking I should see it again to see what I missed as some are like you, just loved it, but then I don’t really want too!! hahahaha always a good read from you tho!

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you very much. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not being blown away by a film that many people seem to love. I’ve had big issues with tried-and-tested classic – I suppose it sometimes comes down to a matter of taste. I do think Ex-Machina is worth another watch, though – especially if you have an affinity for science-fiction. Great to hear from you.

  15. lasttimeisaw says:

    Oscar Isaac steals the show in this superb A.I. thriller!

  16. Enky says:

    Wonderfully written film review. It is a thorough analysis of technical and artistic specifications of the film without dwelling longer than necessary on plot. I couldn’t agree more with it. Even though I have already seen the film, it makes me to want to watch it again! If all your other reviews are like this, you got yourself a new subscriber!

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you so very much – what a great comment! I always ensure my reviews avoid spoilers. I don’t see the sense in dwelling too heavily on the plot of a film in a review. There are so many other things to discuss. Great to have your input, it’s very much appreciated.

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