I decided I wanted to go back and rewatch some movies from 2015, and while searching through Amazon Prime I came across Ex Machina. There’s something I find incredibly interesting about movies that take place in secluded locations and involve a minimal amount of characters. 2016 gave us 10 Cloverfield Lane, which was a movie that presented this claustrophobic environment that added to the tension of the movie. It was also a movie that only had 3 characters. Ex Machina followed that same formula back in 2015 to give us a beautifully written sci-fi film about artificial intelligence.
As I mentioned before there are only 3 characters in the movie. Oscar Isaac plays Nathan, who is a rich genius that creates the A.I. in the movie. We get Domhnall Gleeson who plays Caleb, who is a young programmer that wins a week long visit to Nathan’s isolated house. Last, we have Alicia Vikander who plays Ava, which is the A.I. that Nathan has created. How good this movie is depends mostly on how good these actors are, and they are excellent. Oscar Isaac is easily the standout among the group. This is without a doubt my favorite performance of his. He gives a nuanced performance by showing how aggressive and straightforward Nathan can be, while also coming across as socially awkward. It’s a weird dynamic to capture, but he does it beautifully.
The character relationships are drawn out very well. We are shown how Caleb perceives Nathan at the beginning and how that begins to change. Caleb’s relationship with Ava also changes during the movie through their conversations. Even Nathan’s relationship with Ava is explored in the movie.
Probably the movie’s biggest strength is its screenplay. Caleb wins a trip to Nathan’s house where he finds out that Nathan has a created an A.I. named Ava. Nathan needs him to test if Ava is actually an A.I. so he does through conversations between Caleb and Ava. This kind of plot lends itself to being slowly paced, but it never really lost my attention because of the dialogue. Characters having conversations with each other is 90% of this movie, and they’re really interesting. They raise questions about the human mind that I found to be pretty cool. There’s also a lot of tension that comes with these conversations, because through Caleb’s eyes, the audience has to try to figure out what’s really going on. How things land up unfolding can be a bit cliche, but the execution is what really needs to be commended here.
The setting is another big positive. This isolated house that Nathan has plays a pretty big part in the movie. We quickly learn about how the house is set up and it’s easy to identify the type of role it plays. This house is another device used to build tension too, and it creates some of the creepiest scenes of the entire film.
The movie isn’t without its faults though. While I appreciate the slower pace of the movie because it compliments the dialogue and style of film they’re going for, a couple of times it felt like progress had just stopped. As I mentioned before, there were some moments that were also cliche. The execution was definitely a lot better than other movies, but it felt predictable to the point that I liked the build up better than the climax of the movie. Also, Caleb’s character at the end makes one decision that didn’t make sense when you take into consideration the information he had at the time. It just left me scratching my head.
Overall, Ex Machina is a good sci-fi film with a great screenplay and plenty of great tension. The acting is excellent and the characters are intriguing. The exploration of the human mind was done well through some top notch dialogue. This movie also had some excellent visual effects that added to the experience. It does have some cliche moments and pacing issues, but that doesn’t make this movie bad because the execution of the cliche moments was handled better than most others. It’s a solid movie for sure and is still one of my favorites from 2015.
Ex Machina gets an 84/100