A young programmer named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), working at a popular search engine company, BlueBook, is selected in a contest to spend a week with the company’s founder, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). When arriving at Nathan’s isolated estate, Caleb is introduced to the Nathan’s project ‘Ava’ (Alicia Vikander), an artificially intelligent android. It is Caleb’s mission to test Ava and see how human she really is.
If clever, thought provoking sci-fi is your cup of tea, it doesn’t get much better than this. But, the less you know going into this film, the better. It tends to move at a particularly slow pace, though you will not want to take your eyes off the screen. My only issue is that Ex Machina leaves you craving more, as at 108 minutes, the film feels surprisingly short. It’s certainly rare to see a film in which every aspect of the craft – cinematography, performance, direction, production design, editing, visual effects are all equally as polished and perfected.
Consisting of a strong cast, Gleeson, Isaac, and Vikander deliver three of the best performances I have witnessed this year. The scenes between Nathan and Caleb are nothing short of brilliant, maintaining subtle dialogue with dark humour. To some extent, the film could be depicted as controversial due to what Nathan hides in his closet, though personally I felt it added to the darkness of the film. A disco dance scene is incorporated, being the strangest (and funniest) moment in the film. I think it’s fair to say that Oscar Isaac is one hell of a dancer.
Simply put, Ex Machina is my favourite film of 2015 so far. It is such a shame when films like this that maintain a reasonably lower budget don’t receive the recognition they deserve. Filled with impeccable visuals, exceptional performances, and a narrative that has stuck with me days later, Garland’s debut is breathtaking. The sci-fi elements feel authentic despite the fact we’re still not even close to creating such technology. The film manages to cover some relevant themes without ever alienating the audience. And I must emphasise, this is certainly an adult film. But Alex Garland is a director to keep an eye on; I very much look forward to see what he will bring to the table in the near future.