Monday, April 27, 2015

“EX MACHINA” UNEXPECTED SUCCESS



 
















EX MACHINA
Starring Domhnall Gleeson,
Oscar Isaac,
Alicia Vikander,
Sonoya Mizuno,
Corey Johnson
Written and directed by Alex Garland
Runtime 108 mins.
Rated R

         

From the writer of 28 Days Later comes this solid sci-fi story concerning artificial intelligence.
           
Caleb (Gleeson), a computer programmer, wins a contest and gets to spend a week at the remote home of Nathan (Isaac), CEO of the world’s biggest internet company. Upon arrival, Caleb learns his eccentric host wants him to conduct daily interview sessions with Ava (Vikander), a robot he created, in order to see whether Ava passes an artificial intelligence test. Along the way, surprises unfold.
           
Ex Machinadeus ex machina, the “god from a machine” dropped by crane in ancient theater to solve problems—is a smooth piece of machinery itself, a classic at heart with an original look. Simple yet complex, this thorough yet thoroughly engrossing story boasts memorable performances. Isaac’s portrayal of Nathan is a study in acting largely because Alex Garland focuses his filmmaking attention on minimal characters with maximum roles, and the result is an actor’s dream.
           
Caleb’s stay at Nathan’s secluded estate evokes an atmosphere reminiscent of Jonathan Harker at Dracula’s castle, and the surprises he finds as an endangered guest cast Nathan in a Dr. Moreau-like light. In Ava’s composition we see evidence of Elsa Lanchester in {Bride of Frankenstein}, and the robot from {Metropolis} which preceded her.
           
Galvanized by classic sources, Ex Machina also offers strong visual style. The use of glass windows and reflections repeated, for example, contributes to the subject matter of replicated life and lends an otherworldly sci-fi air inspiring in its simplicity.
           
Less-known leads help establish the characters for us by not seeming too actor-y. Remaining deliberately vague to preserve the story, suffice to say that an attraction between Caleb and Ava leads to conflict as Caleb learns of Ava’s distrust of Nathan. But is her revealing this distrust simply part of some test being conducted by Nathan as he watches all on his monitors?
           
Most movies with robots rely primarily on special effects to hold our attention. This one has some special effects; more than that it’s got a story. The test Nathan has Caleb run on Ava will be familiar to fans of Blade Runner, but Ex machine has twists and turns you won’t find anywhere else. 


 Stewart Kirby writes for
           

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