Thursday, January 14, 2016
***1/2 out of ****
I know that Ex-Machina must be a good movie because I saw it last April and it has taken me this long to find words for it. The film wasn't ultimately as satisfying as I hoped, but it didn't leave my system. When a movie leaves a mark, it must be doing something right.
The setup to the story is almost like that of classic sci-fi horror fiction as a learned protagonist is summoned to the large estate of a reclusive eccentric scientist who will reveal a secret breakthrough, which, in some way, will ensnare the hero.
In this modern tale, the hero is a computer programmer (Domhnaal Gleeson) working for a software giant, whose founder (Oscar Isaac) has selected him to fly out to his private estate where a subterranean facility run entirely on high-security automation with minimal personnel - right out of a Michael Crichton novel - houses the first artificially intelligent being (Alicia Vikander).
The programmer is tasked with engaging in conversations with this being, which is made to look like a beautiful woman, in order to evaluate her mind as genuine consciousness. However, his attraction to her is so strong, he becomes suspicious that she has been designed to distract his objectivity.
Through collaborations with Danny Boyle on films like 28 Days Later and Sunshine, Alex Garland's writing has made a positive impact on otherwise outlandish material. He even escalated Pete Travis' exploitively violent Dredd to unexpected heights by giving its world a lot of unique character. However, he also has a tendency to resort to genre expectations when concluding most of his stories. My only problem with Ex Machina, -Garland's directorial debut - is that it does this, even though it thankfully never sheds its hypnotic tone.
Garland is still astoundingly inventive when it comes to putting compelling ideas in movies and this film's concept of simulating consciousness is something I'm sure many sci-fi authors have entertained, but it is made to work with this film's wonderfully designed atmosphere gorgeously.
I have a nagging feeling that this film may pass the test of time in big ways, but until then, I will regard this movie as something incredibly close to greatness.