Ex Machina (2015) – Review

3 Stars

Deus ex machina (Latin: dei ex machina) 1.A calque from Greek, meaning “god from the machine”. – Wikipedia

There is an awful lot of discussion about man playing god, in the appropriately titled Ex Machina, the latest thriller from novelist/screenwriter Alex Garland, who also directs. This is a low-key, there are only four cast members, sometimes mesmerizing odyssey into classical literary themes.

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a small-time programmer working for a ‘Google’-ish tech company. One day, he receives information that he’s won a corporate wide contest to spend a week at a remote Alaskan compound with the company’s brilliant founder Nathan (Oscar Isaac). The raffle is just as ruse as Nathan explains Caleb is there to be a testing application for a new, highly secret, artificial intelligence system. The A.I. isn’t a computer, but a strikingly attractive female given the name Ava (Alicia Vikander).

Slowly a bond forms between Caleb and Ava, which develops into a quasi-relationship. All of this plays out under the ever watching eyes of Nathan. Is he orchestrating this mind-screw? Or is Ava manipulating Caleb to plot an escape?

The cast is this film’s strong-hand. Oscar Isaac is becoming one of my favorite actors. His off-beat edge gives an otherwise ‘nerdy’ figure a sense of danger. Alicia Vikander performs beautifully as the droid with a sense of self and longing for freedom. Domhnall Gleeson is the cool head in the acting theatrics around him, his part calls for a detachment but he barely registers amongst his stronger counterparts.

Ex Machina runs for 110 minutes and for 90 of those, I was ready to award the film four stars. Then in the last act, Garland loses control of his story and it becomes apparent that the sum of these great scenes won’t be able to build to a satisfying whole.

Deus ex machina (Latin: dei ex machina) 2.The term has evolved to mean a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event. – Wikipedia

Ah. Now, that makes a lot more sense.

Director: Alex Garland
Stars: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander

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