‘Ex Machina,’ a powerful and intelligent science fiction tale

Rating: ★★★★★

For moviegoers that are facing a long summer of action hero based films, you will be relieved and thrill to see a science fiction film based more on intellect than brawn. Written and directed by Alex Garland (“28 Days Later”), “Ex Mechina” is the bright hope for fans looking for something more than just explosive special effects and blaring noise.

“Ex Machina” tells the story of Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson). He writes computer code for a company called Blue Book (basically a fictionalized version of Google.) At work, he learns that he has won a contest to visit the owner of Blue Book for one week. The trip is made to a remote area that is so far north that there are melting glaciers in the landscape. Caleb is helicoptered in the area and must trek a distance on foot before finding his owner’s compound.

It had a very modern façade, almost stark and contrasted by piped in mellow music. With walls of glass, it appears to be a very tranquil place. Caleb meets his boss Nathan (Oscar Isaac) and finds out pretty quickly that Nathan is socially awkward, narcissistic and really an overall douche bag. Caleb is set straight by Nathan that is visit is not to party, but to perform a test. This test is for Caleb to examine a robot created by Nathan and is meant to discover if this robot meets the qualifications to be considered artificial intelligence.

The Robot’s name is Eva (Alicia Vikander) and it is up to Caleb to see if she is just the mechanical embodiment of computer code or a sentience being. Ultimately, the test is not just for Eva.

Now any big science fiction fan will know to tread lightly when it comes to robots – it was the main story behind the series “Battlestar Galactica.” And their robots, called Cylons, destroyed their world, leaving humans to find a new home in space.

So, I was prepared for the unusual. Most of the film is dialogue between Caleb and Eva, and evaluations brought to Nathan regarding the all-important test. If successful, Nathan may have invented the singularly most important thing in all of man kind.

Alex Garland’s screenplay is a triumph. In the dialogue scenes throughout, there is nothing said that doesn’t have place in the story. And the cat in mouse game played between Caleb, Nathan and Eva are so enjoyable to watch play out, seeing how each move has a counter move.

Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb is an excellent protagonist. And his role is really like a straight man in humorous skit – as Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac play off him. Vikander also excels as a playing the android Eva. She is very careful not to show emotions, yet while playing the damsel in distress. It’s a bit of tightrope walk and she never trips. Blown away, was I by Oscar Isaac. I have met the actor in person and it took me a while to even recognize him. More than anything, I think that Ex Machina showcases Isaac in his ever improving list of characters he has played in the last few years.

And putting everything together, Alex Garland brings the film together in his direction with such a tight film, that this is my favorite film of the year – well so far!

is rated R for graphic nudity, language, sexual references and some violence and has a run time of one hour and 48 minutes.


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