Ex Machina is an engaging new science fiction film that is highly philosophical and surprisingly low on action for the vast majority of its screen time. As a film, it is an interesting exercise in some key philosophical and ethical questions surrounding artificial intelligence, such as freedom, guilt, and love. The amazing thing about this film is that it is highly suspenseful, even though the action is sparse. This beautiful and well-though-out film accomplishes a lot in a relatively short period of time (108 minutes) and with only four actors of note. The tightly-scripted dialogues between these few characters drive the plot as well as any moral or ethical questions surrounding the film. The performances of the three primary characters, Domnhall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander were all phenomenal. It is truly impressive as a piece of genuinely original material. So often now, the film industry is afraid to create original stories and relies solely upon adapting stories that have proven popular first as a book or graphic novel. However, in this case, Ex Machina is a rare story that feels new and exciting. Written and directed by Alex Garland, it was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Original Screenplay and Special Effects, and won the latter. Its minuscule $15M production budget was positively dwarfed by its competition in the Special Effects category, but it beat out powerhouse blockbusters like James Bond: Spectre and Star Wars: Force Awakens.
Delving into too much detail is liable to only ruin the carefully crafted and suspenseful story. I recommend watching the film just as I did, with no preconceived notions or expectations as to what might occur. That viewing experience makes it all that much more enjoyable. One very quick negative note, however, is that I find it odd that there is so much of a sexual element to this film, which, to me, doesn’t necessarily seem crucial. Though Isaac’s character (Nathan) does touch on the very subject, suggesting that love/lust is a critical element of life and gives “motivation” for survival and desire. Perhaps that is the case, or perhaps that entire notion lends to the notion that Nathan, himself, is flawed and that they indicate his arrogance or shortcomings as a creator himself. Some of the resolution at the end of the film did feel a little rushed and may not have been sufficiently explained, but the statement made by the film does come through abundantly clear. Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed the film and recommend it to all mature fans of science fiction, especially harder science fiction that delves into the “hows” and “whys” of progress, humanity, and our place as creators. Rating: 8 of 10