Ex Machina (2015)

Ex Machina (2015)

written and directed by Alex Garland

Here’s one of the few good pieces of advice I learnt while in film school: Make your very first short or feature with just a couple of actors and sets, because the one thing that novice directors always forget is that they don’t know shit about directing. Your first movie needs to be your training ground, a place to learn camera blocking, improvisation skills, and how to communicate with the actors. The mistakes you make will teach you how to avoid them next time, when you move on to bigger, more challenging projects. This is certainly true. However, that doesn’t mean a first-time director can’t make a solid film, and such is the case with Ex Machina.

Novelist and screenwriter Alex Garland is no stranger to cinema, having written 28 Days Later (2002) and Sunshine (2007) for Danny Boyle, as well as adapting the novel Never Let Me Go (2010) to the big screen. His debut behind the camera with Ex Machina continues his fascination with sci-fi, with a simple story about a computer programmer named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) who wins a one-week stay at the company CEO’s (Oscar Isaac) high-tech compound in the mountains. But it’s not all fun and games: The head honcho has created a female android by the name of Ava (Alicia Vikander), and he wants the employee to interact with her. Does Ava’s cutting-edge AI make her seem human? Is she capable of feelings? More importantly, and unbeknownst to Caleb, will Ava make him fall in love?

Garland gets fine performances from his three leads, specially Isaac as the hipster genius inventor. He also has a good eye for visuals, making the isolated house a veritable fortress of cold angles any robot would love to escape from. But his attempt at serious philosophical implications feel a bit hollow, and the climax lacks the resonance he seems to be aiming for. Still, Ex Machina is one smart, cool contraption, and one hell of a model for any beginning filmmaker.

Click here to read Rogelio Rodríguez’ review on my sister site Cinesthesia.

Rating: ***

Carlos I. Cuevas