“Ex Machina” is the directorial debut from Alex Garland, who has turned his attention to filmmaking, having penned the box office hits such as “The Beach”, “28 Days Later” and “Dredd”.
The sci-fi thriller follows Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a 26-year-old coder who works at the world’s largest internet company. He wins a competition to spend a week at a private mountain retreat belonging to Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the reclusive CEO of the company.
However, upon his arrival at the remote location, Caleb soon discovers that he will have to participate in a strange and fascinating experiment in which he must interact with the world’s first true artificial intelligence, housed in the body of a beautiful robot girl called Ava (Alicia Vikander), brought to life through seamless CGI. The story unfolds at a consistent pace; unravelling through a series of gripping twists and turns.
Throughout the film’s 108 minute running time, both Caleb and Nathan grapple with a number of theories surrounding the concept of artificial intelligence, as well as themes of humanity and morality. Whereas such moments could have alienated audiences, Garland ensures they are relatable and grounded, without over-simplifying issues.
Ex Machina is a film driven by its visuals, as the minimalist, claustrophobic setting allows the viewer to fully focus on the dialogue and acting, both of which are beautifully complemented by the crisp effects and the intense, droning soundtrack. As a result, Ex Machina heavily relies on its acting performances from the trio of stars.
Domhnall Gleeson gives a seemingly effortless portrayal of a young man whose initial bewilderment turns into an abrupt suspicion, while his fellow “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” co-star Oscar Isaac is sinisterly enthralling throughout. However, it’s Vikander who steals the show, as her affectionate interactions with Caleb provide the emotional pull of the film.