Rating: This is a solid B+
Summary: Poe Dameron recruits General Hux to perfect his cyborg Lara Croft, as Dr. Fujita looks on.
Another movie on the list of things I finally got around to (Wind River, you’re on deck), Ex Machina flew under the radar for me for the longest time until I realized my entire Netflix was curated off some poor decisions to watch every single movie that starred Stone Cold Steve Austin and giving Shrek the Musical five minutes to grasp my interest (it didn’t). I really, really liked this movie a whole lot more than I thought I would, mostly due to its intelligence and nuance. It’s like Westworld if Westworld didn’t get ahead of itself and without the goal of “Confuse everyone until the plotholes are unfillable.” If you want to watch Westworld, but value your time and your sanity, this is probably the movie for you.
Ex Machina takes place in the not so distant future when a young computer programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson- GLEESON, take a shot) is recruited by his CEO (Oscar Isaac) to help in a personal project- to perfect the human qualities in Ava (Alicia Vikander), a humanoid powered by artificial intelligence. Ava is childlike and learning about what it means to be human, as Caleb falls in love with her, and Nathan is up to no good, as most men who imitate God are.
What’s really spectacular is this very subtle and intentional commentary of how women are viewed as commodities and how Caleb and Nathan each impose their desires, decisions, and goals on Ava. Caleb, the Nice Guy, thinks he’s doing everything for Ava and uses her as an excuse to finally be an interesting hero; meanwhile, Nathan views her existence and her purpose as something for his use. Along the way, they never stop to ask her what she wants and it’s this blindness and ego that becomes her weapon against them.
I put off liking Vikander for so long because she had a teeth talky thing going on, but that was my mistake. It’s an exceptionally detailed and nuanced performance and she’s able to breathe so much life into Ava without much time. It’s quite easy to fall in love with Ava (and then creepy once you realize that Caleb enjoys spending time with Ava because she’s impressionable and finds him fascinating, being locked up in a research facility and all). She’s an incredibly vibrant character and one that supposedly doesn’t have personality. Her sudden changes in emotion are pulled off seamlessly and all of her maneuvers and behaviors are extremely well practiced, complimented by whirring and really great CGI. Vikander thankfully never overcompensates to portray Ava’s eagerness. And if you only know Gleeson for his turn in Star Wars, yo, shame on you. He’s got some physical comedy stuff out there, but he’s perfectly capable of these quiet, but tense parts with things bubbling under the surface. Ex Machina is a simple, slow movie that at times feels like a horror, sometimes plain old suspense, and sometimes drama. It’s one of those not-so-loud, not-so-bombastic, thoughtful works that gives me hope for intelligent filmmaking in the future.