Ex-Machina Review – Edgy Sci-Fi Tech Thriller Engages At Enter

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Ex-Machina, from DNA Films and Universal Pictures International, brings to the screen, a sci-fi thriller woven together with a contemporary tech drama introducing the next phase of the extremely secretive and highly sensitive Artificial Intelligent program to the world.

Written and directed by Alex Garland, Ex-Machina stars Oscar Isaacs, Alicia Vikander and Domhnall Gleeson as the unlikely social network trio brought together under the ruse of winning a mentoring week with the world’s most recognized and intelligent Tech CEO.

We meet our highly intelligent, tech coder, Caleb, a Mark Zuckerberg type, played by Domhnall Gleeson, super intellect, who breathes code, in his cube at the office of the biggest search company in the world.

Within the first few minutes of the film, Caleb has found out he has been declared the winner in a company sponsored contest that awards the winner a one week stay with the founder at his mountain compound, where one can only gain access by helicopter.

Dropped off and given the vague instructions of follow the river, Caleb makes his way to the obscure and mysteriously styled bunker doorway. Oddly unprepared for the tech access entry and highly sophisticated interior design he stumbles through the entrance encounter.

Nathan, played by Oscar Isaacs, has developed a state of the art home including swipe cards pre-set to avoid snooping as every door is controlled by the access chip coded on the card gained at entry. We met arrogant, anti-social and oddly charismatic, Nathan, a recluse and wealthy enough not to care as he is pounding away at the heavy bag.

Caleb stumbles down the stairs as the non-descript exterior becomes a palatial underground estate, high tech and ultra-modern. The founder of the search, is a youthful, super IQ, wiz and physically attractive. Not polite or charming although he does possess common courtesies and manners even though at that level of wealth they’re not required and often overlooked.

Nathan is hard charging, a take no prisoners, and failure is not an option type person; a heavy and impulsive drinker, a non-traditionalist when it comes to physical fitness, and so confident in his intellect that his newest project, as he is so sure he can dominate, is complete, he says, without the one element that would still allow him to exercise his deity complex. Confident his personality is sufficient to conquer anyone, anything and clearly a machine, he overlooks a single element.

So our two super intellects, with a combined IQ of 400+, meet and the two bounce jargon off each other like static electricity hoping to see whom can impress whom first. As Nathan is the boss, our contest winner, Caleb, pulls back as he is instructed to do and becomes “two guys hanging out.”

Which is when he is told the real reason he is brought to the compound. The Turing Test, the idea of testing Artificial Intelligence, a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligence equivalent to a human.  

Which is when we meet the lovely, Ava, played by Alicia Vikander, who captures the physicality of the robotic movement, with slightly staccato movement, as she listens, moves, determines her next questions. She is in robotic form during the beginning portion of the film, a mesh body suit, (she explained at Press Day and not CGI).

Thus begins the week when intellects collide, Nathan, with nothing to prove, and Caleb, genius, limited socially, and employed, and now Ava an engineered intellect based on a combination of search patterns and a brain constructed in lab, by a card carrying member of Mensa International, which brings her artificial intellect to astonishing levels.

By weeks end, hard charging Nathan has proven himself, domineering, arrogant, a nasty bad guy, who is lucky he invented search or he would be lost, a hated soul in a mean world. As it is he is revered, lauded, and as wits match wits, the three play physically chess to see who makes check-mate first and who counters, only in this game it is winner take all.

Ex-Machina delivers heightened levels of suspense as our two guys hanging become challenged by the obstacles presented before them. A dark contrasting and next level social network, Ex-Machina takes the foundation of what was once held in the darkest of government experimental laboratories and brings it into the open. The moral and ethical questions are clearly present and one wonders as one sees continued degradation of society if a mechanical answer to some deeply disturbing behaviors would curb directed violence.

The film is smooth. The acting is outstanding. The three capture their characters and portray them with authenticity. Individually, each have a pivotal turning point or arch that is evident and seen and moves the characters into the final act.

The ending is unexpected and creates an equation that factors in variables of determination and desire versus control and dominance and of course, as many a founding father has said, liberty above all else drives a man’s soul, mind and being, take it and witness a new man.

Ex-Machina is a must see. It is entertaining, well-acted, a high state of the art adventure movie with tech developments very present, at the forefront, causing the mind to wonder if someone is creating suspended realities that include A.I. creation can it then be realized? Is it being realized? Are we at the beginning?

Ex-Machina is rated R and does have high levels of nudity. The mesh body suit is replaced with flesh which then becomes the nudity. Heavy drinking, violence, language and disturbing ideas are also depicted.

Ex-Machina opens April 9, 2015. Check local listings. 

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