Posted on Monday, March 16th, 2015 by Angie Han
The subject of A.I. (and/or the singularity) is one ripe for cinematic exploration, and explore it we have — in Her, in Transcendence, in Chappie, in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron and Terminator: Genisys. But as that list shows, the actual quality of those films has been all over the map.
Happily, Alex Garland‘s Ex Machina seems to fall on the higher end of the spectrum. After years of writing haunting sci-fi scripts for other people, Garland finally makes his directorial debut with this simple story about two men (Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson) and a beautiful but slippery A.I. (Alicia Vikander). Get the Ex Machina early buzz from SXSW after the jump.
First, some reviews, which were mostly quite positive:
Ex Machina is a confident, engrossing debut, and easily the most thoughtful consideration of the future of computerized consciousness in the midst of a slew of movies on the subject.
[A] sci-fi chamber drama that manages to be tactile, cerebral and gripping, crammed with big ideas while also feeling like an engagingly twisting thriller. It is smart cinema, smartly done.
After a recent run of overly-hyped, but ultimately disappointing sci-fi efforts, fans of the genre finally have something worth getting excited about. Non genre filmgoers should probably get excited too. For the first time in a long time, we have an artificial intelligence film with, well, intelligence.
“Ex-Machina” has sci-fi elements too, but it is much more a psychological thriller that forces three intelligent minds to face off against each other. The film is brilliantly tense, with chilling performances by all the lead characters.
Ex Machina is the sort of science fiction film we all crave: it’s gripping entertainment (and the score, by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, will have you in knots of anxiety) that says something, that stays with you. It catches its audience off guard with nearly every scene, dark and surprising. The film has style and substance, and it has something else, too, something strange and lasting that will soak into you and leave you feeling it hours after the very cool final credits have rolled.
The director ensures this chamber piece of moral conundrums never seems too heavy-handed; his fluids camera roams through each room so that at no time does the theatrical set-up feel like a limitation. The one-location film is traditionally the preserve of first-time filmmakers, which admittedly is Garland’s status, but he executes it like a vet — with precise, robotic, pacing. The surprises are delivered as cleverly conceived pay-offs.
Ex Machina is a strong feature and a huge achievement in a number of ways. There’s a surprising amount of very effective humor courtesy of Isaac’s character, there’s an extremely riveting scenario at the core of the film and there’s also tons of stunning visual work to admire as well. But, for an exceptionally unique and layered character study, Ex Machina has a surprisingly minimal amount of humanity and that keeps the film from striking a chord on a deeper level and having a lasting effect.
There are a lot of well-worn paths down which “Ex Machina” could go and Garland heads down a few of them. This isn’t a knock, but it is to there isn’t much, thematically, in “Ex Machina” that wasn’t covered in “Blade Runner” or any of Philip K. Dick’s how-do-we-know-we-are-human fictions. (Indeed, “Ex Machina” often feels like an unofficial prequel to “Blade Runner,” a look at the early days of the Nexus 6 series in a lab at the Tyrell Corporation.)
And now, some quick reaction tweets…
Sci-fi fans are in for a real treat.
EX MACHINA is AWESOME! Holy hell it's the original sci-fi movie you've been itching for. Gorgeous, brainy, amazing effecfs. Great! #sxsw
— ErikDavis (@ErikDavis) March 15, 2015
Ex Machina is exceptional sci-fi. So fantastic and unnerving.
— Britt Hayes, Esq. (@MissBrittHayes) March 15, 2015
EX MACHINA: wry, ponderous sci-fi w/ billionaire Oscar Isaac having coder Domhnall Gleeson test A.I. robot. Smart, though familiar. #SXSW
— Eric D. Snider (@EricDSnider) March 15, 2015
EX MACHINA was great. Been a long time since I liked a sci-fi flick this much. #SXSW
— The Nerd Repository (@NerdRepository) March 15, 2015
It also works as a thriller.
EX MACHINA: a razor sharp thriller with three stellar performances. Stylish, smart and very clever. #SXSW
— Neil Miller (@rejects) March 15, 2015
— Alexander Pelham (@TalkingofPelham) March 15, 2015
Expect big things from Garland going forward.
After EX MACHINA expect Alex Garland's name on the director wishlist for all the big sci-fi movies, including future STAR WARS
— ErikDavis (@ErikDavis) March 15, 2015
People went gaga over Ex Machina’s smarts.
Ex Machina – Alex Garland digs deep with this one, asking provocative sci-fi questions that not many others have asked yet. Really dug it.
— Alex Billington (@firstshowing) March 15, 2015
Ex Machina is a fascinating exploration of the Turing test's limitations, and what we'd really need to do to prove AI consciousness
— Devindra Hardawar (@Devindra) March 15, 2015
— Cole Clay (@WordsByCole) March 15, 2015
Though not everyone thought it was terribly deep.
— Jeff Nelson (@JeffAlexanderN) March 15, 2015
And there was at least one person who didn’t like it at all.
— Randy Mack (@Armakk) March 15, 2015
Ex Machina drew a few comparisons to other films.
EX MACHINA just rendered CHAPPIE obsolete. #SXSW
— Matt Singer (@mattsinger) March 15, 2015
EX MACHINA is a sort of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory From Hell narrative that builds perfectly and ends magnificently. #SXSW
— Moisés Chiullan (@moiseschiu) March 15, 2015
EX MACHINA is great & a good companion film to Soderbergh's SOLARIS and Scott's BLADE RUNNER #SXSW
— Rob Dean (@neuroticmonkey) March 15, 2015
All three actors were highly praised, but Isaac got the most attention.
'Ex Machina' is very very good and Oscar Isaac is absolutely fantastic in it.
— Mike Sampson (@mjsamps) March 15, 2015
EX MACHINA: A sleek, cerebral, funny psycho-sexual thriller about artificial intelligence. I've never liked Oscar Isaac more. #SXSW
— Adam B. Vary (@adambvary) March 15, 2015
— MC Roffman (@michaelroffman) March 15, 2015
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