Sunday, 13 December 2015

Ex Machina Review

The questions Ex Machina asks are well established but none the less
remain both interesting and engaging.

Ex Machina is a highly ambitious film and is Alex Garlands first time directing a film, who some may know from his role in writing films such as Sunshine, Never Let Me Go and Dredd. Knowing this I was skeptical at the likelihood that the film would be able to be thematically consistent without obvious dips in quality throughout. Unfortunately my skepticism was correct albeit not in the manner that I had expected it to be.

Ex Machina starts with a young programmer Caleb winning the ability to spend time with his boss. Immediately this seemed a bit odd as who really wants to win spending time with there boss? But ultimately I simply assumed it was a chance for Caleb to meet a great mind in the industry. However once he meets his boss Nathan he seems to be little more then an alcoholic with little apparent intreset in his work. Which is contrary to everything else presented on screen and as it turns out Nathan is working on creating artificial intelligence and wants Caleb to test the artificial intelligence named Ava and see if he sees her as sentient.

The  slowly reveal of characters through there intentions and actions throughout
it a joy to watch.

As the film continues and the various characters motivations become clearer, your feelings towards the characters will likely shift dramatically. Characters aren't stagnant and whilst they don't grow as characters throughout the film, more is slowly revealed about them that in some cases will drastically change your opinion of them. This is easily where Ex Machina is at its best. It helps that the three leads all deliver fabulous and believable multilayered performances

Thematically Ex Machina also shines and had me pondering questions it puts forward. Admittedly these are far from new questions about consciousness and similar, but they are still presented in an interesting manner that provided a fresh twist on what will likely be familiar territory for most fans of this genre. Ex Machina is also gorgeously photographed with the machinery of Ava being aprticularly striking when placed directly against nature. Likewise the score is both unique and at times chilling that adds to a film that could otherwise at times feel a little empty given the few characters present. Sadly not all is well with Ex Machina.

The technical aspects the film uses it fairly route and poorly done, but this isn't anything all that unexpected for a film dabbling with the ideas presented here. It however does connect and lead to one very large flaw which sadly directly impacts the ending. The ending itself starts out strongly and has some truly remarkable moments. However as it continued as much as I wanted to love everything that was happening on screen I simply didn't. Not that it is bad per se, but it feels like less then it could have easily been, with odd choices early in the film at least for me giving away the finale. The films big shock moment in particular I found to be not particularly shocking (though i'm sure it will shock many) and the most painful thing about he above is how close it comes to greatness.

Ex Machina is consistently a visually striking film that looks far better 
then its relatively meager budget may suggest.

Sadly with just a few small tweaks it could easily have been surprising and as shocking as the film makers seem to have wanted it to be. Alas those changes will never be and whilst they are minor in the scope of the film as a whole, they do deride what is an otherwise marvelous film.

If nothing else Ex Machina had me asking questions I had pondered many times before again. I also greatly enjoyed the slow reveal of the characters present. Admittedly the themes and questions they pose are really no different to what Blade Runner covered over thirty years ago (or numerous other films and novels that are far older then Blade Runner). None the less Ex Machina had me contemplating those themes from what felt like a fresh perspective, even though it really was simply retreading familiar territory. Whilst a deeply flawed film Ex Machina still comes highly recommended.

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