Sci-fi is a genre I’ve slowly been warming to over the last few years, never fully convinced I’ll enjoy it, but every now and then a film stands out for all the right reasons. Director/Screenwriter Alex Garland’s has an impressive back-catalogue, with such films as 28 Days Later, Dredd and Never Let Me Go to his name, and now proud to stand among them is the eerily captivating Ex Machina.
It stars Domhall Gleeson as Caleb Smith, an employee at a fictional equivalent of Google. An all seeing, all knowing organisation that has a stereotypically genius CEO, Nathan Bateman, played by the ever-impressive Oscar Isaac. Caleb wins a competition to meet Nathan, to stay with him in a remote mountain house where he lives, but once he arrives all is not as it seems. Caleb believes he is there because he won as some sort of reward, when in actual fact he is there to assist Nathan with his testing of his artificial intelligence experiment.
This “experiment” is Ava, clearly artificial but designed to be a woman indistinguishable from any normal human, the lines of right and wrong begin to blur as the notion of playing god with human emotions take over.
Alicia Vikander shines as Ava, while Gleeson and Isaac display incredible chemistry. Backed by a fantastically spooky score, this is a tweaky idea not so far removed from the realms of possibility taken to a delightfully unnerving extreme. This idea is the key to the success of the film. It’s not shrouded in special effects, fantastical ideologies or mythical theories that are yet to be proven. Ex Machina appears like a window to the future, showing where the path of technological advancement is headed, and poses the question whether we should go down this path at all.
For someone who doesn’t care too much for sci-fi, Ex Machina is a real gem of a film that took me by surprise.