Ex Machina or Ex_Machina is written and directed by Alex Garland who is best known as the man behind the screenplays for 28 Days Later (2002) and Sunshine (2007). The film tells the story of a software coder called Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) who wins a competition to spend a week with his company’s enigmatic CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac). On arrival he learns that this isn’t a competition prize as such but the opportunity to take part in a unique experiment. He must decide if Nathan’s latest creation, Eva, could pass as a human being.
While Ex Machina sits in the realms of science fiction it doesn’t rely on space travel or flashy special effects. It starts off as a simple enough tale of a scientific experiment but through the testing of Eva it becomes clear that this film is an exploration of what it means to be human. Not new ground in its own right but the way it goes about it is really interesting. Caleb’s character starts to succumb to paranoia as he finds himself doubting the motives of his boss, the ‘machine’ he is testing and even his own identity. The film explores the importance of sexuality and the ability to cheat / mislead as essential albeit dark elements of existence.
One of the successes of the film is that it demonstrates the power of two people talking. It leans heavily on the talented cast and while Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson are the better known actors, the star is Alicia Vikander as Eva. She took the lead in Testament of Youth (2015) that I reviewed recently and continues to demonstrate she is a star in the making. You can’t teach the X factor and she has it. She is joining the new class of talented young actresses who are taking over Hollywood.
While the film is not about the special effects it would be remiss of me not to mention how well Eva is brought to life as we can see through sections of her body. It looks faultless and presumably involved some sort of suit that could be animated over.
Ex Machina is my pick of the films released this week. It’s not due out in North America until April but my colonial friends should check it out if it is available in a cinema near you. My rating 4/5.