July 13, 2015

Ex Machina

Alex Garland, 2015
Anyone familiar with Alex Garland's previous work is aware of the fact that he is a great writer. Responsible for writing the novel The Beach (which eventually would become the not-as-good film adaptation directed by Danny Boyle), the still under-rated 28 Days Later, the almost-amazing space-thriller Sunshine, and the also quite good 2012 stylistic action film Dredd. He's sort of gone all over the place, from one side of the planet to the other and then all way to space.

Ex Machina is a thriller, set mostly inside the elaborate contemporary home of Silicon Valley Elon Musk / Tony Stark / Steve Jobs archetype Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Nathan creates a contest where a random employee of his will get the opportunity to stay with him for a week, basically a mentor retreat type of thing. Coder employee Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins the competition and the film quickly jumps to him arriving at the estate, which is a seemingly endless island that Nathan owns. Picture someone owning the entire Isla Nublar island from Jurassic Park sans dinosaurs. Caleb soon discovers that Nathan is actually working on an A.I. prototype that he wants to show off. Gleeson is really fit for the Caleb role, serving as sort of a quirky nerdy type that contrasts well with Isaac's eccentric billionaire role. Isaac is able to bring a lot more illustration to his character, and is able to pull off a nice progression going from a friendly beer-drinking health fanatic to a deviously manipulative genius.

The film becomes a blend of elements ranging from Spielberg's AI to Spike Jonze's Her to the genre-spawning Terminator films. It becomes a philosophical experiement, examining what makes us human and challenging the idea of conciousness. The well-paced story builds into a extraordinary climax that will have you playing out scenarios in your head for hours after viewing. The story is unpredictable, the characters are engaging, and the film itself is really nice to look at. The effects are subtle, the electronic score (provided by Portishead's Geoff Barrow and composer Ben Salisbury) is very present. Ex Machina marks his directorial debut, and he certainly proves that he's good controlling the camera as well as creating what's in front of it. It will be interesting to now see what happens with Garland's career, seeing as he is a proven one-stop-shop for great film-making.

No comments:

Post a Comment