Ex Machina

Ex Machina ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Alex Garland is absolutely one of my favorite directors currently working. His projects take on such complex ideas but are executed so effectively, and each of them have such a hypnotic nature to them. Ex Machina I still find to be his best work so far. The script is amazing, and what he is able to do with it is quite impressive as he, like Nathan, puts us through a sort of Turing Test through the film along with Caleb. Over the course of the movie he slowly convinces us of the nature and motivations of the characters. Just like Caleb though, we don't realize who is actually in control until it's already too late. This results in the third act twists being very solid. I also really appreciate how 'smart' the script is, as it deals with such complicated material but doesn't waste time trying to give the audience a shortened college course or spend energy on dumbing down the dialogue for the sake of the viewer. Rather, it lays out information as actual people in that situation would (at least that's what it feels like to me) and trusts the audience to pay close attention and put the pieces together themselves.

This film begs to be explored deeper, as there's so many philosophical and existential questions it deals with, giving possible answers for some but simply laying the groundwork for others to be discussed. Ex Machina does a great job at injecting subtle fear into the viewer through the feeling of losing control. It does this through many methods, one of which is implanting the idea of AI's superiority to the human species. Nathan's line of the inevitability of AI is displayed by Ava completely outsmarting Caleb and Nathan through the course of the film, with us realizing they were always outmatched from the beginning no matter what they prepared for. This could be taken either as a nihilistic view that our existence is merely a building block for further evolution, or as a cautionary tale to take technological advances more seriously, instead of adopting Nathan's attitude that he is an infallible god incapable of losing control over his creations. The scene focused on the Pollock painting also perfectly describes the way the viewer allows the film to work on our minds with these questions and ideas. While watching we're not solely engaged in critical thinking as we're allowing the movie to give us all the information and visuals, but we're also not on the complete mental automation of watching without processing anything. Thus the film can gradually and naturally form and build these thoughts and fears in our head without us even realizing they're happening. Hence Garland creating a sort of Turing Test experience for us as mentioned earlier.

Alicia Vikander manages to pull off a reverse Turing Test, as her acting (both verbal and physical) is so spot on that I'm convinced she's a machine. She does a fantastic job with somewhat limited screen time. Everyone else does great in their roles also.

Very excited to see what Garland does with his next film 'Men'. Specifically because he's back with A24, who appreciate his talent unlike Paramount who butchered the release of Annihilation.