Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander
Director: Alex Garland
Running Time: 108 mins
Ex Machina is a British film about a young computer programmer who is recruited to take part in an historic scientific test: assessing whether a new-fangled AI system really has the capabilities to be human.
Well, if you’re expecting this to be a normal sci-fi, you’re mistaken, because it’s more of a psychological drama and a study about human nature and technological progress, and although it starts off as an intriguing concept, it descends into an excessively disturbing and ultimately pretentious drama.
Let’s start with how well this film kicks off, and sustains a very solid atmosphere and intrigue for nearly a full hour. From the off, it has a very eerie, creepy feel to it, but the mystery that so much of the story is shrouded in makes it really intriguing to follow along to, as you’re constantly asking yourself questions about the real meaning of everything that’s going on.
It’s clear then that the beginning of this film is actually quite thought-provoking, but it’s not at all pretentious or preachy either, and has a lot of entertaining sci-fi stuff in it. I was awestruck by some of the special effects, which although relatively simple, did have a profound impact on the credibility of the story.
One of the other things that I was really impressed by in the first half was the performances. Although I thought Domhnall Gleeson was a little bit deadpan, Oscar Isaac did a really good job in his role as the creator of this artificial intelligence system, being not only a convincingly weird genius, but also being consistently unnerving to watch as someone who you suspect is almost a bit of a bad guy.
So, the beginning of this is not only intriguing, but it’s well-acted, well put together, and has an entertaining, original and convincing concept, however the final 40 minutes or so, when the stakes are really raised, detracts far away from that.
Basically, the film descends from its previously intriguing quality into two separate paths. Firstly, it becomes excessively gruesome, both visually, psychologically and thematically (I think a good comparison to this stage would be something like The Skin I Live In), and with all of its over-the-top violence, brutality and nudity, it ends on a very unpleasant note that ruined my overall impression of the movie as a whole.
Secondly, the concept of the film turns from an intelligent but still entertaining sci-fi into a pretentious and preachy look at ‘what it means to be a human being’ and how we can’t trust artificial intelligence, a period of about ten minutes which I was not only bored stiff by, but extremely annoyed by.
Overall, this gets a 7.0, because despite quite a strong start, with a good concept, story, performances and visual effects, it descends into an uninteresting, gratuitously gruesome and painfully pretentious finale.