Ex Machina

Garland passes the test like NO other!


Ex Machina

  • Garland passes the test like NO other!

Ex Machina

  • Garland passes the test like NO other!


Rated

R

Starring

Domhnall Gleeson
Alicia Vikander
Oscar Isaac
Sonoya Mizuno

Written by

Alex Garland

Directed by

Alex Garland


What to Expect

From starting out his movie career as a regular collaborator to his debut directorial effort, Alex Garland seems to have come a long way, hasn’t he?

Previously a novelist (whose book The Beach was poorly adapted by Boyle himself), his slow, but sure progression to a screenwriter, and – with Ex Machina – now director, Garland’s proven to the world that he definitely has a strong potential to be an auteur in his own right, should he be given the right chances.

Coming back to Ex Machina, however, the layman has but three things to expect of the film – the rather strong male cast comprising of Domnhnall Gleeson (Frank) and Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year), Garland himself (what with his writing collaborations on 28 Days Later and Sunshine being the most remembered of all), and the relative wild-card of this whole game: Alicia Vikander.

Vikander, who’s not exactly a debutante here, having been seen in Testament of Youth and The Fifth Estate prior, still holds the kind of mysterious charm for choosing a role that’s as ballsy as the one that’s been allotted to her in the film – which is what the whole film’s mystery is wrapped around, basically. That, and the whole mystery surrounding the culmination of the movie and its secretive characters, definitely gives this movie the kind of boost it requires to be seen with a completely clean palate. And let’s be honest here; having seen the film, I can safely say that the trailer definitely helps in creating a whole aura of claustrophobic mystery around the film, thereby intensifying the need to watch the film to see how events turn out.

But that’s the thing about even the most controlled of expectations: they’re expectations, and they’re made to somehow cloud a somewhat clearer judgment on the film.

What’s it About?

Caleb Smith (Gleeson) works for the world’s most powerful search engine, Bluebook. In an apparent stroke of luck, he wins a company lottery to visit Bluebook’s CEO Nathan Bateman in his house/research facility, which in turn is for a far deeper thing – Bateman wants Smith to be a part of the Turing test involving, inevitably, Bateman’s own creation – an AI he’s named Ava (Vikander; Testament of Youth). Starting off with a few harmless sessions, Nathan suddenly starts to realize that there’s something not right about this, now knowing, however, that things for him might not be the same ever again.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Examiner and the Examinees

The Examiner and the Examinees

How is one really to describe something as powerfully subtle as Ex Machina other than to say it can’t be described without leaving behind spoilers that can’t simply be revealed for the world?

One just can’t. But being the reviewer that I am, let me just as well try.

Almost a year ago, I helped myself to this fascinating film called Under the Skin, a week after which I was still looming over the vast possibilities of how human nature works and what it would be like for someone who’s not human to discover what it actually is like. Weirdly enough; more fascinatingly so than awkwardly; I found Garland’s directorial debut lying within the same spectrum, giving us – the viewers – more of an insight into the many deep, dark facets of being human, and what the whole package really comes with. By the film’s claustrophobic  finale, you’re also treated to another painful feature of humanity where everyone of a kind is clouded when a being is filled with unforgettable trust issues. As when you want to survive, it’s always the hardest, darkest decisions of desperation you will choose (as also shown in It Follows,  another albeit unrelated film that came out this year) in order to get out of the closing walls you’re going be crushed in. While there’s definitely an ample amount of mystery surrounding Isaac’s Nathan for the kind of intentions he really has as a person, and due to his amount of obnoxiousness and deviance to the visually more acceptable stereotype set of being an extremely intelligent human being, we’ll come to that later.

Because let’s really talk about Ava.

Hear me. Feel me. Now do as I say.

Hear me. Feel me. Now do as I say.

Ava is the kind of being that has thoroughly been explored to the hilt, as it quite apparent, thereby giving her one of the most full-bodied characters any machine has been given. For not only is her machine the most fluid form of Artificial Intelligence found in a film, she’s a metaphor for so many things in this world – sexism, the nightmarish idea of being trapped in a societal construct, emotional (and possible physical) abuse, the craving to be a discoverer, and the rather dark step of survival at the cost of many an object or being. Ava is not just a character in the film; she’s that strong plot device that moves the other characters (and you as a viewer) forward in a story. Giving the lonely Caleb – a guinea-pig of the Turing test – a reason to be alive and do things subversively, if only for the instant, constant attraction he feels for her is just one of the many, many things this character is able to achieve skillfully, which shows Garland’s overall presence as a terrific writer through and through. But that’s all I’m going to say about Ava, for fear of writing more than two pages on her.

Because there’s Nathan, who – through Garland – completely defies what it is like to look intelligent. The guy works the hell out, gets superiorly drunk, on his own admission, has really obnoxious and sexist (you’ll see) ideals, is threateningly dominative (to hell with modesty) and – to top that all – bros out with Caleb. Literally. Next to Ava, he;s probably the most fascinating character to look at, not ‘cause of how dark he can get, but also for how dynamic he actually is as the child prodigy Caleb claims him to be within one of his sessions with Ava. Not that Caleb is the most useless character; really, his presence is a symbol for vulnerability and good faith throughout. And while that definitely has the potential to induce dire consequences, this is the very (albeit apparently subdued) catalyst that is required in the film, despite what a chunk of viewers would say in opposition of the claim.

In reality, this is actually a success.

In reality, this is actually a success.

The production design is futuristic, minimalist and cold; a major help in moving events forward within the rather gradual pace the film moves forward with. Garland has a vision alright, and the very fact that the setting has many a prop that gives it a very subtext-riddled feel (the faces on the glass-wall of a corridor could denote past achievements of Nathan, almost akin to the hanging of the taxidermic upper-halves of animals by hunters in their houses). Built upon with fantastic visual effects compositing, the film encourages within us the belief that visual effects, if done perfectly, is almost invisible to the naked eye, if not for people within the field who can understand the art of computer-generated imagery. Ben Salisbury and George Barrow whip up a surreal, bare-bones underscore that forms possibly one of the best soundtracks to any films this year. Giving atmosphere and wonder a genuine enhancement, whether it is for the motif score attached to Ava, or her final step of adaptation, Salisbury and Barrow have given the film one of possibly the biggest trump cards that keeps the curiosity within the discerning viewer running. Mark Day rhythmically edits, utilizing the close-up of the nature outdoors as a wonderful metaphor of trapped wonder that the machines, who – almost human – feel the need to see. This definitely takes me to Rob Hardy’s strong cinematography itself. Giving a lot of focus to directing the frame and the movement of the cameras in accordance with a certain sense of vision, this style can only be comparable (if not on par entirely) with Dariusz Wolski and his works – primarily Prometheus, which gave a lot of attention to atmospheric detail, if only to wrap the spectator around itself and make them a cohabiting individual within the parallel universe of the film.

Flaws? Well, to quite a few, the answer will definitely be a shining pot of “yes”. But are they really? The film may definitely have questions that may be hitherto unexplored for the minds of many, which might make the viewers question a lot of plot twists and character motivations. This, paired with the subtle moral policing that viewers may throw on the film, will allow the viewers to be disappointed at an expected romanticized ending they’d expect of the film, which – at most, is a commentary on how despicable humanity is. There are many things that will definitely be plot points, but in reality, most of the turns the narrative of this story takes is basically a call for every viewer to ask themselves questions, and ponder on the wider concepts of life and how people behave. Miss the symbolism, and you’re definitely prone to missing out on the film’s real concept, and what (or who) the makers really want to focus on.

But to really focus on the flaws of the film would be to to get that quite a few revelations Garland was going for were actually quite predictable, arousing suspicions right from the silent foreshadowing of the introduction of these devices. That whether this was intended or not is definitely debatable, but there’s always going to be a debate for a lot of things that go around in the film.

To Perform or Not to Perform

Past and future conquest.

Past and future conquest.

If there’s one person who’s going to completely bowl you over it is (and i’m pretty sure you know who I’m going to talk about here) the rather astute Alicia Vikander, who has the kind of surprising confidence and self-conviction that isn’t found in the many, many actors we witness in modern-day mainstream cinema. Drowning herself in the role, she is unforgettably, unmistakably Ava. And when a person can do that, that’s half the battle won. Oscar Isaac comes in a close second, giving life to the manipulative, domineering Nathan, being the driving force of the film next to Vikander. And then there’s the rather underrated, subdued performance of Caleb that Domhnall Gleeson completely wins. Watch out for the scene within the penultimate moments of the film in which he’s momentarily gaslit about his existence through his confrontation of Kyoko, and you’ll know exactly why I say this.

Sometimes, it’s not necessary for a person to speak to give out an understanding of emotion within a film, and Sonoya Mizuno beautifully exemplifies that theorem. The actress-model-ballerina’s performance of Kyoko is possibly one of the more surprising supporting performances within this year – and one which will definitely not get the due it is supposed to.

The others, beside the four primary characters, who come in and go as the script sees correct, are not bad either. In fact, the performances are what drives the script in a completely different direction, possibly giving the film an additional boost, and making us, the viewers, believe in the film’s universe and its elements.

Worth it?

This film is definitely not going to be everyone’s cuppa. And for that alone, this film deserves to be tried once at the least. Speaking from a broader view, however, Ex Machina is the kind of minimalist, cerebral science fiction film that was almost definitely required within the stratosphere of poor excuses in the form of mainstream “sci-fi” blockbusters that have littered. It comes close to feeling like a rather warm reminder of an Isaac Asimov novel (even though, to some, there will be a slight deviance from his rules of robotics to form a wider theoretical question that looms through its runtime), and is really the kind of sci-fi that needs to be seen, promoted and given the right amount of leeway to understand.

Easily one of the best films this year, if not the best. Draws you in seductively, and leaves you with a bunch of questions on the credibility of being human and whether it’s reserved only for humanity. Definitely recommended for a watch (or more).

Consensus: 4.5 Stars
Extraordinary!
About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

Watch the trailer

We’re viral

Like UsFollow Us

#ReadBuySupport

Amazon

  • iTunes


Rated

R

Starring

Domhnall Gleeson
Alicia Vikander
Oscar Isaac
Sonoya Mizuno

Written by

Alex Garland

Directed by

Alex Garland


What to Expect

From starting out his movie career as a regular collaborator to his debut directorial effort, Alex Garland seems to have come a long way, hasn’t he?

Previously a novelist (whose book The Beach was poorly adapted by Boyle himself), his slow, but sure progression to a screenwriter, and – with Ex Machina – now director, Garland’s proven to the world that he definitely has a strong potential to be an auteur in his own right, should he be given the right chances.

Coming back to Ex Machina, however, the layman has but three things to expect of the film – the rather strong male cast comprising of Domnhnall Gleeson (Frank) and Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year), Garland himself (what with his writing collaborations on 28 Days Later and Sunshine being the most remembered of all), and the relative wild-card of this whole game: Alicia Vikander.

Vikander, who’s not exactly a debutante here, having been seen in Testament of Youth and The Fifth Estate prior, still holds the kind of mysterious charm for choosing a role that’s as ballsy as the one that’s been allotted to her in the film – which is what the whole film’s mystery is wrapped around, basically. That, and the whole mystery surrounding the culmination of the movie and its secretive characters, definitely gives this movie the kind of boost it requires to be seen with a completely clean palate. And let’s be honest here; having seen the film, I can safely say that the trailer definitely helps in creating a whole aura of claustrophobic mystery around the film, thereby intensifying the need to watch the film to see how events turn out.

But that’s the thing about even the most controlled of expectations: they’re expectations, and they’re made to somehow cloud a somewhat clearer judgment on the film.

What’s it About?

Caleb Smith (Gleeson) works for the world’s most powerful search engine, Bluebook. In an apparent stroke of luck, he wins a company lottery to visit Bluebook’s CEO Nathan Bateman in his house/research facility, which in turn is for a far deeper thing – Bateman wants Smith to be a part of the Turing test involving, inevitably, Bateman’s own creation – an AI he’s named Ava (Vikander; Testament of Youth). Starting off with a few harmless sessions, Nathan suddenly starts to realize that there’s something not right about this, now knowing, however, that things for him might not be the same ever again.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Examiner and the Examinees

The Examiner and the Examinees

How is one really to describe something as powerfully subtle as Ex Machina other than to say it can’t be described without leaving behind spoilers that can’t simply be revealed for the world?

One just can’t. But being the reviewer that I am, let me just as well try.

Almost a year ago, I helped myself to this fascinating film called Under the Skin, a week after which I was still looming over the vast possibilities of how human nature works and what it would be like for someone who’s not human to discover what it actually is like. Weirdly enough; more fascinatingly so than awkwardly; I found Garland’s directorial debut lying within the same spectrum, giving us – the viewers – more of an insight into the many deep, dark facets of being human, and what the whole package really comes with. By the film’s claustrophobic  finale, you’re also treated to another painful feature of humanity where everyone of a kind is clouded when a being is filled with unforgettable trust issues. As when you want to survive, it’s always the hardest, darkest decisions of desperation you will choose (as also shown in It Follows,  another albeit unrelated film that came out this year) in order to get out of the closing walls you’re going be crushed in. While there’s definitely an ample amount of mystery surrounding Isaac’s Nathan for the kind of intentions he really has as a person, and due to his amount of obnoxiousness and deviance to the visually more acceptable stereotype set of being an extremely intelligent human being, we’ll come to that later.

Because let’s really talk about Ava.

Hear me. Feel me. Now do as I say.

Hear me. Feel me. Now do as I say.

Ava is the kind of being that has thoroughly been explored to the hilt, as is quite apparent, thereby giving her one of the most full-bodied characters any machine has been given. For not only is her machine the most fluid form of Artificial Intelligence found in a film, she’s a metaphor for so many things in this world – sexism, the nightmarish idea of being trapped in a societal construct, emotional (and possible physical) abuse, the craving to be a discoverer, and the rather dark step of survival at the cost of many an object or being. Ava is not just a character in the film; she’s that strong plot device that moves the other characters (and you as a viewer) forward in a story. Giving the lonely Caleb – a guinea-pig of the Turing test – a reason to be alive and do things subversively, if only for the instant, constant attraction he feels for her is just one of the many, many things this character is able to achieve skillfully, which shows Garland’s overall presence as a terrific writer through and through. But that’s all I’m going to say about Ava, for fear of writing more than two pages on her.

Because there’s Nathan, who – through Garland – completely defies what it is like to look intelligent. The guy works the hell out, gets superiorly drunk, on his own admission, has really obnoxious and sexist (you’ll see) ideals, is threateningly dominative (to hell with modesty) and – to top that all – bros out with Caleb. Literally. Next to Ava, he;s probably the most fascinating character to look at, not ‘cause of how dark he can get, but also for how dynamic he actually is as the child prodigy Caleb claims him to be within one of his sessions with Ava. Not that Caleb is the most useless character; really, his presence is a symbol for vulnerability and good faith throughout. And while that definitely has the potential to induce dire consequences, this is the very (albeit apparently subdued) catalyst that is required in the film, despite what a chunk of viewers would say in opposition of the claim.

In reality, this is actually a success.

In reality, this is actually a success.

The production design is futuristic, minimalist and cold; a major help in moving events forward within the rather gradual pace the film moves forward with. Garland has a vision alright, and the very fact that the setting has many a prop that gives it a very subtext-riddled feel (the faces on the glass-wall of a corridor could denote past achievements of Nathan, almost akin to the hanging of the taxidermic upper-halves of animals by hunters in their houses). Built upon with fantastic visual effects compositing, the film encourages within us the belief that visual effects, if done perfectly, is almost invisible to the naked eye, if not for people within the field who can understand the art of computer-generated imagery. Ben Salisbury and George Barrow whip up a surreal, bare-bones underscore that forms possibly one of the best soundtracks to any films this year. Giving atmosphere and wonder a genuine enhancement, whether it is for the motif score attached to Ava, or her final step of adaptation, Salisbury and Barrow have given the film one of possibly the biggest trump cards that keeps the curiosity within the discerning viewer running. Mark Day rhythmically edits, utilizing the close-up of the nature outdoors as a wonderful metaphor of trapped wonder that the machines, who – almost human – feel the need to see. This definitely takes me to Rob Hardy’s strong cinematography itself. Giving a lot of focus to directing the frame and the movement of the cameras in accordance with a certain sense of vision, this style can only be comparable (if not on par entirely) with Dariusz Wolski and his works – primarily Prometheus, which gave a lot of attention to atmospheric detail, if only to wrap the spectator around itself and make them a cohabiting individual within the parallel universe of the film.

Flaws? Well, to quite a few, the answer will definitely be a shining pot of “yes”. But are they really? The film may definitely have questions that may be hitherto unexplored for the minds of many, which might make the viewers question a lot of plot twists and character motivations. This, paired with the subtle moral policing that viewers may throw on the film, will allow the viewers to be disappointed at an expected romanticized ending they’d expect of the film, which – at most, is a commentary on how despicable humanity is. There are many things that will definitely be plot points, but in reality, most of the turns the narrative of this story takes is basically a call for every viewer to ask themselves questions, and ponder on the wider concepts of life and how people behave. Miss the symbolism, and you’re definitely prone to missing out on the film’s real concept, and what (or who) the makers really want to focus on.

But to really focus on the flaws of the film would be to to get that quite a few revelations Garland was going for were actually quite predictable, arousing suspicions right from the silent foreshadowing of the introduction of these devices. That whether this was intended or not is definitely debatable, but there’s always going to be a debate for a lot of things that go around in the film.

To Perform or Not to Perform

 

Past and future conquest.

Past and future conquest.

If there’s one person who’s going to completely bowl you over it is (and i’m pretty sure you know who I’m going to talk about here) the rather astute Alicia Vikander, who has the kind of surprising confidence and self-conviction that isn’t found in the many, many actors we witness in modern-day mainstream cinema. Drowning herself in the role, she is unforgettably, unmistakably Ava. And when a person can do that, that’s half the battle won. Oscar Isaac comes in a close second, giving life to the manipulative, domineering Nathan, being the driving force of the film next to Vikander. And then there’s the rather underrated, subdued performance of Caleb that Domhnall Gleeson completely wins. Watch out for the scene within the penultimate moments of the film in which he’s momentarily gaslit about his existence through his confrontation of Kyoko, and you’ll know exactly why I say this.

Sometimes, it’s not necessary for a person to speak to give out an understanding of emotion within a film, and Sonoya Mizuno beautifully exemplifies that theorem. The actress-model-ballerina’s performance of Kyoko is possibly one of the more surprising supporting performances within this year – and one which will definitely not get the due it is supposed to.

The others, beside the four primary characters, who come in and go as the script sees correct, are not bad either. In fact, the performances are what drives the script in a completely different direction, possibly giving the film an additional boost, and making us, the viewers, believe in the film’s universe and its elements.

Worth it?

This film is definitely not going to be everyone’s cuppa. And for that alone, this film deserves to be tried once at the least. Speaking from a broader view, however, Ex Machina is the kind of minimalist, cerebral science fiction film that was almost definitely required within the stratosphere of poor excuses in the form of mainstream “sci-fi” blockbusters that have littered. It comes close to feeling like a rather warm reminder of an Isaac Asimov novel (even though, to some, there will be a slight deviance from his rules of robotics to form a wider theoretical question that looms through its runtime), and is really the kind of sci-fi that needs to be seen, promoted and given the right amount of leeway to understand.

Easily one of the best films this year, if not the best. Draws you in seductively, and leaves you with a bunch of questions on the credibility of being human and whether it’s reserved only for humanity. Definitely recommended for a watch (or more).

Consensus: 4.5 Stars
Extraordinary!
About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

Watch the trailer

We’re viral

Like UsFollow Us

#ReadBuySupport

Amazon

  • iTunes

Cast Domhnall Gleeson
Alicia Vikander
Oscar Isaac
Director Alex Garland
Consensus: 4.5 Stars
Extraordinary!

What to Expect

What will happen to me if I fail your test?

What will happen to me if I fail your test?

From starting out his movie career as a regular collaborator to his debut directorial effort, Alex Garland seems to have come a long way, hasn’t he?

Previously a novelist (whose book The Beach was poorly adapted by Boyle himself), his slow, but sure progression to a screenwriter, and – with Ex Machina – now director, Garland’s proven to the world that he definitely has a strong potential to be an auteur in his own right, should he be given the right chances.

Coming back to Ex Machina, however, the layman has but three things to expect of the film – the rather strong male cast comprising of Domnhnall Gleeson (Frank) and Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year), Garland himself (what with his writing collaborations on 28 Days Later and Sunshine being the most remembered of all), and the relative wild-card of this whole game: Alicia Vikander.

Vikander, who’s not exactly a debutante here, having been seen in Testament of Youth and The Fifth Estate prior, still holds the kind of mysterious charm for choosing a role that’s as ballsy as the one that’s been allotted to her in the film – which is what the whole film’s mystery is wrapped around, basically. That, and the whole mystery surrounding the culmination of the movie and its secretive characters, definitely gives this movie the kind of boost it requires to be seen with a completely clean palate. And let’s be honest here; having seen the film, I can safely say that the trailer definitely helps in creating a whole aura of claustrophobic mystery around the film, thereby intensifying the need to watch the film to see how events turn out.

But that’s the thing about even the most controlled of expectations: they’re expectations, and they’re made to somehow cloud a somewhat clearer judgment on the film.

What’s it About?

Caleb Smith (Gleeson) works for the world’s most powerful search engine, Bluebook. In an apparent stroke of luck, he wins a company lottery to visit Bluebook’s CEO Nathan Bateman in his house/research facility, which in turn is for a far deeper thing – Bateman wants Smith to be a part of the Turing test involving, inevitably, Bateman’s own creation – an AI he’s named Ava (Vikander; Testament of Youth). Starting off with a few harmless sessions, Nathan suddenly starts to realize that there’s something not right about this, now knowing, however, that things for him might not be the same ever again.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Examiner and the Examinees

The Examiner and the Examinees

How is one really to describe something as powerfully subtle as Ex Machina other than to say it can’t be described without leaving behind spoilers that can’t simply be revealed for the world?

One just can’t. But being the reviewer that I am, let me just as well try.

Almost a year ago, I helped myself to this fascinating film called Under the Skin, a week after which I was still looming over the vast possibilities of how human nature works and what it would be like for someone who’s not human to discover what it actually is like. Weirdly enough; more fascinatingly so than awkwardly; I found Garland’s directorial debut lying within the same spectrum, giving us – the viewers – more of an insight into the many deep, dark facets of being human, and what the whole package really comes with. By the film’s claustrophobic  finale, you’re also treated to another painful feature of humanity where everyone of a kind is clouded when a being is filled with unforgettable trust issues. As when you want to survive, it’s always the hardest, darkest decisions of desperation you will choose (as also shown in It Follows,  another albeit unrelated film that came out this year) in order to get out of the closing walls you’re going be crushed in. While there’s definitely an ample amount of mystery surrounding Isaac’s Nathan for the kind of intentions he really has as a person, and due to his amount of obnoxiousness and deviance to the visually more acceptable stereotype set of being an extremely intelligent human being, we’ll come to that later.

Because let’s really talk about Ava.

Hear me. Feel me. Now do as I say.

Hear me. Feel me. Now do as I say.

Ava is the kind of being that has thoroughly been explored to the hilt, as it quite apparent, thereby giving her one of the most full-bodied characters any machine has been given. For not only is her machine the most fluid form of Artificial Intelligence found in a film, she’s a metaphor for so many things in this world – sexism, the nightmarish idea of being trapped in a societal construct, emotional (and possible physical) abuse, the craving to be a discoverer, and the rather dark step of survival at the cost of many an object or being. Ava is not just a character in the film; she’s that strong plot device that moves the other characters (and you as a viewer) forward in a story. Giving the lonely Caleb – a guinea-pig of the Turing test – a reason to be alive and do things subversively, if only for the instant, constant attraction he feels for her is just one of the many, many things this character is able to achieve skillfully, which shows Garland’s overall presence as a terrific writer through and through. But that’s all I’m going to say about Ava, for fear of writing more than two pages on her.

Because there’s Nathan, who – through Garland – completely defies what it is like to look intelligent. The guy works the hell out, gets superiorly drunk, on his own admission, has really obnoxious and sexist (you’ll see) ideals, is threateningly dominative (to hell with modesty) and – to top that all – bros out with Caleb. Literally. Next to Ava, he;s probably the most fascinating character to look at, not ‘cause of how dark he can get, but also for how dynamic he actually is as the child prodigy Caleb claims him to be within one of his sessions with Ava. Not that Caleb is the most useless character; really, his presence is a symbol for vulnerability and good faith throughout. And while that definitely has the potential to induce dire consequences, this is the very (albeit apparently subdued) catalyst that is required in the film, despite what a chunk of viewers would say in opposition of the claim.

In reality, this is actually a success.

In reality, this is actually a success.

The production design is futuristic, minimalist and cold; a major help in moving events forward within the rather gradual pace the film moves forward with. Garland has a vision alright, and the very fact that the setting has many a prop that gives it a very subtext-riddled feel (the faces on the glass-wall of a corridor could denote past achievements of Nathan, almost akin to the hanging of the taxidermic upper-halves of animals by hunters in their houses). Built upon with fantastic visual effects compositing, the film encourages within us the belief that visual effects, if done perfectly, is almost invisible to the naked eye, if not for people within the field who can understand the art of computer-generated imagery. Ben Salisbury and George Barrow whip up a surreal, bare-bones underscore that forms possibly one of the best soundtracks to any films this year. Giving atmosphere and wonder a genuine enhancement, whether it is for the motif score attached to Ava, or her final step of adaptation, Salisbury and Barrow have given the film one of possibly the biggest trump cards that keeps the curiosity within the discerning viewer running. Mark Day rhythmically edits, utilizing the close-up of the nature outdoors as a wonderful metaphor of trapped wonder that the machines, who – almost human – feel the need to see. This definitely takes me to Rob Hardy’s strong cinematography itself. Giving a lot of focus to directing the frame and the movement of the cameras in accordance with a certain sense of vision, this style can only be comparable (if not on par entirely) with Dariusz Wolski and his works – primarily Prometheus, which gave a lot of attention to atmospheric detail, if only to wrap the spectator around itself and make them a cohabiting individual within the parallel universe of the film.

Flaws? Well, to quite a few, the answer will definitely be a shining pot of “yes”. But are they really? The film may definitely have questions that may be hitherto unexplored for the minds of many, which might make the viewers question a lot of plot twists and character motivations. This, paired with the subtle moral policing that viewers may throw on the film, will allow the viewers to be disappointed at an expected romanticized ending they’d expect of the film, which – at most, is a commentary on how despicable humanity is. There are many things that will definitely be plot points, but in reality, most of the turns the narrative of this story takes is basically a call for every viewer to ask themselves questions, and ponder on the wider concepts of life and how people behave. Miss the symbolism, and you’re definitely prone to missing out on the film’s real concept, and what (or who) the makers really want to focus on.

But to really focus on the flaws of the film would be to to get that quite a few revelations Garland was going for were actually quite predictable, arousing suspicions right from the silent foreshadowing of the introduction of these devices. That whether this was intended or not is definitely debatable, but there’s always going to be a debate for a lot of things that go around in the film.

To Perform or Not to Perform

 

Past and future conquest.

Past and future conquest.

If there’s one person who’s going to completely bowl you over it is (and i’m pretty sure you know who I’m going to talk about here) the rather astute Alicia Vikander, who has the kind of surprising confidence and self-conviction that isn’t found in the many, many actors we witness in modern-day mainstream cinema. Drowning herself in the role, she is unforgettably, unmistakably Ava. And when a person can do that, that’s half the battle won. Oscar Isaac comes in a close second, giving life to the manipulative, domineering Nathan, being the driving force of the film next to Vikander. And then there’s the rather underrated, subdued performance of Caleb that Domhnall Gleeson completely wins. Watch out for the scene within the penultimate moments of the film in which he’s momentarily gaslit about his existence through his confrontation of Kyoko, and you’ll know exactly why I say this.

Sometimes, it’s not necessary for a person to speak to give out an understanding of emotion within a film, and Sonoya Mizuno beautifully exemplifies that theorem. The actress-model-ballerina’s performance of Kyoko is possibly one of the more surprising supporting performances within this year – and one which will definitely not get the due it is supposed to.

The others, beside the four primary characters, who come in and go as the script sees correct, are not bad either. In fact, the performances are what drives the script in a completely different direction, possibly giving the film an additional boost, and making us, the viewers, believe in the film’s universe and its elements.

Worth it?

This film is definitely not going to be everyone’s cuppa. And for that alone, this film deserves to be tried once at the least. Speaking from a broader view, however, Ex Machina is the kind of minimalist, cerebral science fiction film that was almost definitely required within the stratosphere of poor excuses in the form of mainstream “sci-fi” blockbusters that have littered. It comes close to feeling like a rather warm reminder of an Isaac Asimov novel (even though, to some, there will be a slight deviance from his rules of robotics to form a wider theoretical question that looms through its runtime), and is really the kind of sci-fi that needs to be seen, promoted and given the right amount of leeway to understand.

Easily one of the best films this year, if not the best. Draws you in seductively, and leaves you with a bunch of questions on the credibility of being human and whether it’s reserved only for humanity. Definitely recommended for a watch (or more).

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

We’re viral

Like usFollow us

#ReadBuySupport

  • iTunes
Cast Domhnall Gleeson
Alicia Vikander
Oscar Isaac
Director Alex Garland
Consensus: 4.5 Stars
Extraordinary!

What to Expect

From starting out his movie career as a regular collaborator to his debut directorial effort, Alex Garland seems to have come a long way, hasn’t he?

Previously a novelist (whose book The Beach was poorly adapted by Boyle himself), his slow, but sure progression to a screenwriter, and – with Ex Machina – now director, Garland’s proven to the world that he definitely has a strong potential to be an auteur in his own right, should he be given the right chances.

Coming back to Ex Machina, however, the layman has but three things to expect of the film – the rather strong male cast comprising of Domnhnall Gleeson (Frank) and Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year), Garland himself (what with his writing collaborations on 28 Days Later and Sunshine being the most remembered of all), and the relative wild-card of this whole game: Alicia Vikander.

Vikander, who’s not exactly a debutante here, having been seen in Testament of Youth and The Fifth Estate prior, still holds the kind of mysterious charm for choosing a role that’s as ballsy as the one that’s been allotted to her in the film – which is what the whole film’s mystery is wrapped around, basically. That, and the whole mystery surrounding the culmination of the movie and its secretive characters, definitely gives this movie the kind of boost it requires to be seen with a completely clean palate. And let’s be honest here; having seen the film, I can safely say that the trailer definitely helps in creating a whole aura of claustrophobic mystery around the film, thereby intensifying the need to watch the film to see how events turn out.

But that’s the thing about even the most controlled of expectations: they’re expectations, and they’re made to somehow cloud a somewhat clearer judgment on the film.

What’s it About?

Caleb Smith (Gleeson) works for the world’s most powerful search engine, Bluebook. In an apparent stroke of luck, he wins a company lottery to visit Bluebook’s CEO Nathan Bateman in his house/research facility, which in turn is for a far deeper thing – Bateman wants Smith to be a part of the Turing test involving, inevitably, Bateman’s own creation – an AI he’s named Ava (Vikander; Testament of Youth). Starting off with a few harmless sessions, Nathan suddenly starts to realize that there’s something not right about this, now knowing, however, that things for him might not be the same ever again.

The Examiner and his Examinees

#ReadBuySupport on Amazon


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

How is one really to describe something as powerfully subtle as Ex Machina other than to say it can’t be described without leaving behind spoilers that can’t simply be revealed for the world?

One just can’t. But being the reviewer that I am, let me just as well try.

Almost a year ago, I helped myself to this fascinating film called Under the Skin, a week after which I was still looming over the vast possibilities of how human nature works and what it would be like for someone who’s not human to discover what it actually is like. Weirdly enough; more fascinatingly so than awkwardly; I found Garland’s directorial debut lying within the same spectrum, giving us – the viewers – more of an insight into the many deep, dark facets of being human, and what the whole package really comes with. By the film’s claustrophobic  finale, you’re also treated to another painful feature of humanity where everyone of a kind is clouded when a being is filled with unforgettable trust issues. As when you want to survive, it’s always the hardest, darkest decisions of desperation you will choose (as also shown in It Follows,  another albeit unrelated film that came out this year) in order to get out of the closing walls you’re going be crushed in. While there’s definitely an ample amount of mystery surrounding Isaac’s Nathan for the kind of intentions he really has as a person, and due to his amount of obnoxiousness and deviance to the visually more acceptable stereotype set of being an extremely intelligent human being, we’ll come to that later.

Because let’s really talk about Ava.

Hear me. Feel me. Now do as I say.

Ava is the kind of being that has thoroughly been explored to the hilt, as it quite apparent, thereby giving her one of the most full-bodied characters any machine has been given. For not only is her machine the most fluid form of Artificial Intelligence found in a film, she’s a metaphor for so many things in this world – sexism, the nightmarish idea of being trapped in a societal construct, emotional (and possible physical) abuse, the craving to be a discoverer, and the rather dark step of survival at the cost of many an object or being. Ava is not just a character in the film; she’s that strong plot device that moves the other characters (and you as a viewer) forward in a story. Giving the lonely Caleb – a guinea-pig of the Turing test – a reason to be alive and do things subversively, if only for the instant, constant attraction he feels for her is just one of the many, many things this character is able to achieve skillfully, which shows Garland’s overall presence as a terrific writer through and through. But that’s all I’m going to say about Ava, for fear of writing more than two pages on her.

Because there’s Nathan, who – through Garland – completely defies what it is like to look intelligent. The guy works the hell out, gets superiorly drunk, on his own admission, has really obnoxious and sexist (you’ll see) ideals, is threateningly dominative (to hell with modesty) and – to top that all – bros out with Caleb. Literally. Next to Ava, he;s probably the most fascinating character to look at, not ‘cause of how dark he can get, but also for how dynamic he actually is as the child prodigy Caleb claims him to be within one of his sessions with Ava. Not that Caleb is the most useless character; really, his presence is a symbol for vulnerability and good faith throughout. And while that definitely has the potential to induce dire consequences, this is the very (albeit apparently subdued) catalyst that is required in the film, despite what a chunk of viewers would say in opposition of the claim.

In reality, this actually is a success.

The production design is futuristic, minimalist and cold; a major help in moving events forward within the rather gradual pace the film moves forward with. Garland has a vision alright, and the very fact that the setting has many a prop that gives it a very subtext-riddled feel (the faces on the glass-wall of a corridor could denote past achievements of Nathan, almost akin to the hanging of the taxidermic upper-halves of animals by hunters in their houses). Built upon with fantastic visual effects compositing, the film encourages within us the belief that visual effects, if done perfectly, is almost invisible to the naked eye, if not for people within the field who can understand the art of computer-generated imagery. Ben Salisbury and George Barrow whip up a surreal, bare-bones underscore that forms possibly one of the best soundtracks to any films this year. Giving atmosphere and wonder a genuine enhancement, whether it is for the motif score attached to Ava, or her final step of adaptation, Salisbury and Barrow have given the film one of possibly the biggest trump cards that keeps the curiosity within the discerning viewer running. Mark Day rhythmically edits, utilizing the close-up of the nature outdoors as a wonderful metaphor of trapped wonder that the machines, who – almost human – feel the need to see. This definitely takes me to Rob Hardy’s strong cinematography itself. Giving a lot of focus to directing the frame and the movement of the cameras in accordance with a certain sense of vision, this style can only be comparable (if not on par entirely) with Dariusz Wolski and his works – primarily Prometheus, which gave a lot of attention to atmospheric detail, if only to wrap the spectator around itself and make them a cohabiting individual within the parallel universe of the film.

Flaws? Well, to quite a few, the answer will definitely be a shining pot of “yes”. But are they really? The film may definitely have questions that may be hitherto unexplored for the minds of many, which might make the viewers question a lot of plot twists and character motivations. This, paired with the subtle moral policing that viewers may throw on the film, will allow the viewers to be disappointed at an expected romanticized ending they’d expect of the film, which – at most, is a commentary on how despicable humanity is. There are many things that will definitely be plot points, but in reality, most of the turns the narrative of this story takes is basically a call for every viewer to ask themselves questions, and ponder on the wider concepts of life and how people behave. Miss the symbolism, and you’re definitely prone to missing out on the film’s real concept, and what (or who) the makers really want to focus on.

But to really focus on the flaws of the film would be to to get that quite a few revelations Garland was going for were actually quite predictable, arousing suspicions right from the silent foreshadowing of the introduction of these devices. That whether this was intended or not is definitely debatable, but there’s always going to be a debate for a lot of things that go around in the film.

Past and future conquest.

#ReadBuySupport on  iTunes


To Perform or Not to Perform

If there’s one person who’s going to completely bowl you over it is (and i’m pretty sure you know who I’m going to talk about here) the rather astute Alicia Vikander, who has the kind of surprising confidence and self-conviction that isn’t found in the many, many actors we witness in modern-day mainstream cinema. Drowning herself in the role, she is unforgettably, unmistakably Ava. And when a person can do that, that’s half the battle won. Oscar Isaac comes in a close second, giving life to the manipulative, domineering Nathan, being the driving force of the film next to Vikander. And then there’s the rather underrated, subdued performance of Caleb that Domhnall Gleeson completely wins. Watch out for the scene within the penultimate moments of the film in which he’s momentarily gaslit about his existence through his confrontation of Kyoko, and you’ll know exactly why I say this.

Sometimes, it’s not necessary for a person to speak to give out an understanding of emotion within a film, and Sonoya Mizuno beautifully exemplifies that theorem. The actress-model-ballerina’s performance of Kyoko is possibly one of the more surprising supporting performances within this year – and one which will definitely not get the due it is supposed to.

The others, beside the four primary characters, who come in and go as the script sees correct, are not bad either. In fact, the performances are what drives the script in a completely different direction, possibly giving the film an additional boost, and making us, the viewers, believe in the film’s universe and its elements.

Worth it?

This film is definitely not going to be everyone’s cuppa. And for that alone, this film deserves to be tried once at the least. Speaking from a broader view, however, Ex Machina is the kind of minimalist, cerebral science fiction film that was almost definitely required within the stratosphere of poor excuses in the form of mainstream “sci-fi” blockbusters that have littered. It comes close to feeling like a rather warm reminder of an Isaac Asimov novel (even though, to some, there will be a slight deviance from his rules of robotics to form a wider theoretical question that looms through its runtime), and is really the kind of sci-fi that needs to be seen, promoted and given the right amount of leeway to understand.

Easily one of the best films this year, if not the best. Draws you in seductively, and leaves you with a bunch of questions on the credibility of being human and whether it’s reserved only for humanity. Definitely recommended for a watch (or more).

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

Share this Post