Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

Ex Machina

Alex Garland is an experienced screenwriter (28 Days Later, Sunshine), but Ex Machina is the first time he has written and directed a film.  He is off to a good start.  This tight (1:48 run-time) sci-fi thriller is long on atmosphere and creepiness.  Don’t let that put you off, though; it is an exhilarating head-trip that is a feast for the eyes and mind.  A friend, marveling at some of the photography, asked me where the film was shot; research later revealed locations in Norway that had not been featured in commercial movies before.  But much of the film elicits an eery claustrophobia that makes any shot of the outdoors feel liberating.

As the movie begins, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a computer programmer for a giant tech corporation.  He wins top prize in a contest at work: a week at the remote home/research facility with Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the CEO of said corporation and a brilliant, creative computer scientist.  The reclusive Nathan lives alone, with only a beautiful cyborg concubine, Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno) and his research into Artificial Intelligence to while away the hours. 

Nathan is excited to get the Caleb’s opinion on a breakthrough he has made in AI: the beautiful Ava (Alicia Vikander).  Caleb is challenged to decide whether Ava has true consciousness or if she is simply a sophisticated machine.  Over the next week, Caleb spends time with Ava, debriefs with Nathan, and he starts to believe that something very wrong, perhaps evil, is happening at the facility.

The cast for this film is excellent, catching its three main performers on the rise.  Oscar Isaac already has made a name for himself with Inside Llewyn Davis and A Most Violent Year, but with Star Wars: The Force Awakens coming in December, he will soon be a household name.  Domhnall (pronounced DONN-ull) Gleeson is the son of Brendan Gleeson and was first widely seen as Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter universe, but he is in a slew of upcoming films, joining Isaac in Star Wars, costarring with Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn, and most notably supporting Leo DiCaprio in the much-hyped The Revenant.  The real revelation, though, is Alicia Vikander (pronounced vih-KAN-dur).  The 28-year-old Swedish actress has been acting since 2002 in Europe, but as Ava, her soft beauty, former ballet dancer’s grace, and downright talent is a star turn.  Like her castmates, she has several high profile films coming up: costarring as Eddie Redmayne’s wife in The Danish Girl, with Matt Damon in Jason Bourne, and in the highly anticipated The Light Between Oceans.  Don’t be surprised if she becomes the next Jennifer Lawrence.

Ex Machina is my favorite movie of 2015 so far, and I believe it sets the bar high for any films that follow.  It is too small to be a major player at Oscar time, though.  I will personally be pulling for  Alicia Vikander as Supporting Actress and for its jaw-dropping Visual Effects.

8.5 out of 10


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