I might be prone to hyperbole, but I think Ex Machina is an all-round perfect movie, due to its expert manipulation of story, themes, performances, cinematography, sets, score and editing. Alex Garland’s directorial debut is on par with other awesome debuts like Citizen Kane and Reservoir Dogs, and should be revered in the filmmaking community as the ultimate masterclass in 21st century science fiction.
While very reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner, the premise is quite original and refreshing; a young programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is selected by the reclusive scientist Nathan (Oscar Isaac) to perform the Turing test on his android Ava (Alicia Vikander). The events that unfold are genuinely thrilling and unpredictable, and are perfectly framed within the 1 hour 48 runtime.
In addition to its strong narrative, the visual style and sets present in Ex Machina are chillingly gorgeous. In addition to the stupendous and pristine state of Nathan’s labyrinthine house, the colour palette is predominantly composed of RGB as a nod to Ava’s identity as a computer. The cinematography lacks movement and is occasionally distant from characters, but is meticulously composed and focused on the drama in the style of Japanese filmmaker Yasujirō Ozu.
Although you will find Ex Machina to be an alluring and perspicacious film on the first viewing, your appreciation of it will increase once you begin to detect the abundance of references towards classic literature, mythology and science fiction. While the title is an obvious [but ultimately ironic] nod to Greek tragedies, the biblical names of the three leads are acute reflections of their role in the film (go to IMDb for more information). The main premises of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are paralleled in the film, while Nathan’s alcoholism and cave-like setting are nods to Prometheus and the literature of Plato. There is also a strong tribute to Stanley Kubrick, with the cinematography, set design and overall tonality in the style of 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining, while Oscar Isaac based his performance on Kubrick himself. I’m still in awe of how Ex Machina is sophisticated not only in its homages, but in its entire construction.
Rating - ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆