‘Ex Machina’ is the directorial debut by writer Alex Garland, previously having written the novel of ‘The Beach’ and the scripts of ’28 Days Later’ and ‘Dredd’, who also penned the screenplay for it.
In it we meet search engine programmer Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) who at the outset of the film wins a trip to the home of the company’s CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Upon arriving at the remote home, we find that the mysterious billionaire Nathan is living in near full isolation in a high tech home. Soon Caleb told that he is there to perform a ‘Turing Test’ (the test of whether a machine can demonstrate behaviour of such a level as to be indistinguishable to a human), on ‘Ava’ – an android that Nathan has built, played by Alicia Vikander (The Fifth Estate, Testament of Youth).
The film progresses with this small cast into a gripping set of sequences where the ideas of what it really is to be alive, and a general air of suspense operates throughout with you not being sure for large parts about who may be misleading who.
Vikander delivers a strong performance as ‘Ava’ but I thought that the standout performance was Isaacs who weaves through the film with mystery and suspense with you rarely having any idea exactly what he is thinking.
The setting for the film is stunning, with the glorious natural setting of Valldalen in Norway being the backdrop for what is a highly stylised sci-fi film.
The CGI used in the film is done so in a way as to emphasise and enhance the story and Vikanders portrayal of an android rather than to dominate the visuals of the film.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film and thought was it was a fantastic balance between excellent lead performances, a strong story line and a film beautifully shot. There are hints of ‘Bladerunner’, ‘I Robot’, and ‘She’ and it all makes for a very impressive debut for Garland.