Not only does Ex Machina form part of a swelling trend in grown-up science fiction, but it also plays into cinema’s fascination with the sexuality of artificial intelligence. It’s a confident directorial debut from Alex Garland (whose previous writing credits include 28 Days Later and Never Let Me Go), adopting a sinister tone and gradual pace that’s shared by art-house sci-fi such as last year’s Under The Skin. This sedate storytelling is Ex Machina’s catch-22, providing the necessary space for audience contemplation and yet the time to figure out its twists.
Ex Machina Domhnall Gleeson Oscar Isaac

At the centre of Ex Machina lies the Turing test, designed to prove if artificial intelligence can be told apart from a human being. It’s performed by contest winner Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) in a series of flirtatious interview sessions with slender and graceful robot, Ava (Alicia Vikander), that provoke his insecurities and self-doubt. Followed by debriefing sessions with Nathan (Oscar Isaac) – Caleb’s CEO and the only other resident at Ex Machina’s isolated research facility – they furnish a subtle study in human relationships.

A vigorous performance from Oscar Isaac that barely masks Nathan’s intimidation with attempts at friendliness, provides not only a nuanced example of destructive child genius, alcoholism and self-imposed loneliness, but also the intellectual springboard for Ex Machina’s most interesting questions. Combining with beautifully photographed landscapes that heighten the contrast between nature and science, this conversation-heavy storytelling delivers tension but lacks the momentous pay-off of Under The Skin or the emotional intricacy of Her.

 

VERDICT: ✭✭✭✭ 4/5

 

Certificate: 15
Running Time: 108 minutes
UK Release Date: 23 January 2015
Images: © 2014 – A24

 

Review first printed in Ashfield & Mansfield Chad

Every week Writer Loves Movies will feature one rapid review of a new mainstream movie release.
 
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