I missed this one in the cinema last year, and I’m glad I managed to watch it last night, because, well, I’ll tell you as I write. Actually, no. I’ll say it now. It’s amazing.
Ex Machina’s small main cast showcases three superb performances, as none out of Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Greeson or Alicia Vikander’s work can be singled out as the best this film has to offer. The characters they play aren’t short of the actors’ quality either, as each is developed strongly throughout the film, as helped by a fantastic script in which Nathan (Oscar Isaac) is built from a bash guy with a drinking problem to the sinister genius he becomes towards the end of the film, though the clever script gives you loose ends for his character and some can be deceiving, as he is a very deep character, and not just some jerk with a beard.
Caleb (Domhnall Greeson), as the film’s protagonist, is the vehicle through which the film’s branching story is presented, as he is a thoroughly relatable victim of all the tricks, lies and cover ups of Ex Machina’s dark and thought provoking plot. Completely innocent at first, a programmer on an exciting placement, as everything falls into place his character does too – the transformation being perfect by Greeson.
Alicia Vikander is also very good as the mysterious Ava, Nathan’s robot creation. As the film progressed I found myself even feeling sorry for her like a human, but by the end of it I’d realised that this was wrong, and who I actually needed to feel sorry for were the humans themselves. Vikander is brilliant as this ever changing character, the one who embodies the film’s ability to provoke thoughts better than most others trying to do the same thing, alongside its intense, dark veil.
This intense aura is well added to the movie not only through the script and character, but also very importantly through its cinematography and score, both expertly done aspects of the film; as done through a looming score and close camera shots.
I suppose the only things possibly hindering Ex Machina are its general slow pace and its tendency at points to go a bit overboard on the detail front; however, sci-fi films require scientific knowledge, and its slow pace is needed in order to let the plot points sink in — although on occasion the film did trail off a little – however much it tried not to. There’s also an issue possibly in the film’s setting, as it’s no way near as grand as some sci-fi settings — though it doesn’t actually thwart the film being what it is. Something else that’s odd, to say the least, about the film, is Kyoko. I won’t go into too much detail but that dancing scene is all part of her weird, weird character. Nonetheless, she adds to the films mysterious and sinister feel, if only sometimes in a needlessly odd way. It works, though. I’m just picking fault at what is a very, very good film, though, so you can take or leave what I’ve said in this paragraph – although maybe it’ll stop someone watching it, who knows.
To summarise: A throwback to Isaac Azimov science fiction, Ex Machina is an expertly directed intense and thought provoking film which showcases a handful of fantastic performances, quality camerawork and a very clever script. Its slower pace than most may not be friendly to some, and the setting may not be as impressive as in some films nowadays, but for sci-fi fans and film lovers alike it is a must see.
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