I’m hoping that some of you, dear readers, are already aware of Alex Garland the writer. For those of you that aren’t, his back catalogue includes one of Danny Boyle’s best films – 28 Days Later – and the well reviewed yet seen-by-noone-at-the-flix Dredd. His talents do not stop there, with his best-selling novel Beach being adapted by Mr. Boyle into a Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle and him providing story duties for the well reviewed yet not-really-played-by-anyone video game Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (I did play and complete it and it was VERY good!).
So now we have Ex Machina, Mr. Garland’s directorial debut from his own script. And what a debut! Mr. Garland hits all the right notes at all the right times throughout its 108 minute running time. Punctuated by some simply stunning Norwegian scenery to increase the audience’s sense of isolation, Ex Machina throws the viewer deep within Nathan’s (played by Oscar Isaac) home-cum-research facility. The windowless lower levels, plain concrete walls pushing in on its inhabitants, in stark contrast to the sheer vastness of the wilderness outside, engendering feelings of agoraphobia in the most stable of visitors (one could posit).
But it is what lies within its walls, the automaton created by Nathan, that is central to the story. The use of an employee to establish whether his creation, named Ava, can exhibit intelligent behavior that would be indistinguishable from a human’s is the starting point to this fascinating story. Domhnall Gleeson – as the employee, Caleb – immediately strikes a connection with Ava, beautifully played by Alicia Vikander. The machinations of all three principles gently teases out the narrative progression and pulls the viewer this-way-and-that in a game of manipulation/ discovery/ enlightenment.
It is no small wonder that Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson are stars in the ascendance. Each inhabit their role and create memorable characters that push Ex Machina beyond the ordinary. As for Alicia Vikander, well a film like this can rise or fall based on the performance of such a central character and Ms. Vikander certainly delivers. There is a vulnerability and depth to Ava that pulls the viewer towards her, empathetic to her predicament.
Alex Garland’s script is a joy to behold, the intelligence in its writing crystal clear. Ex Machina is a very well put together film; it looks fantastic, its got a great cast and the sound design is perfect. This is a high quality science fiction film which treats its audience with respect and delivers on every level. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Mr. Garland does next.
Thank you for reading 🙂