No need for a God

Ex Machina

Tea: Orange-Basil-Chilli Tea (an unconventional, yet oddly soothing mixture)

Ex Machina is not like the name might suggest a series of convenient plot developments, but a Sci-Fi movie written and directed by Alex Garland. The movie is centred around the reclusive Nathan and his guest of honour Caleb. Nathan has been working on an AI and now wants Caleb to test its, or rather her, capabilities as a possible human being. Soon after meeting the AI, named Ava, things start to grow strange as Caleb is unsure of the true nature of things. That is all I am going to say about the plot.

The movie is a really good example of the proper use of atmosphere. Nathan’s house is quite modern, yet feels sterile and devoid of life. Long hallways and white glass add to this feeling of solitude. However, the house is set against the gorgeous nature background which as a result puts the mechanical and artificial processes inside the house in opposition to the thriving nature outside.

Calling a movie intelligent might be a huge step and somewhat hypocritical. I confess I know nothing of the subject, yet I think I got the basic grasp of it. This really is a movie you want to turn around and talk about as soon as the credits roll. Questions are left unanswered and some question aren’t even posed in the movie itself, but you can come up with on your own. The movie throws in certain character aspects you thought to be the truth, but I ultimately started questioning in the end.

The three main actors all do a great job of portraying their roles, with Oscar Isaac probably delivering the strongest performance and one of the most bizarre and out of place scenes. I thought I was watching a Kubrick movie for a second.

The movie is not flawless though, so let’s start the ripping and tearing: My biggest gripe with the movie is that, even though everybody is portrayed as a highly intellectual being and constantly playing mind games, it is just gruelling to watch Caleb be the worst liar ever. It just destroys the feeling somewhat when this guy is waiting hours to answers questions, first acting like he didn’t even hear Nathan at all. You can portray someone as a bad liar, while not ridiculing him like that or the viewer. This in return devaluates the character of Nathan who should be more suspicious, granted he is, but I am trying to make a point here.

Another, I hesitate to use the word flaw, but change I would advocate is the last 2 minutes. They just seem weirdly unnecessary in a movie that otherwise functioned in a minimalistic fashion and succeeded in that regard too. Not to spoil it, but I would start the credits as an elevator door closes. It gives a nice sense of closure with visual feedback and everything shown to us afterwards can be easily guessed by the audience. Other than that the ending is good, not the best ending to ever exist, but a fitting conclusion to the movie. Especially since you are left at a state of unease. Every character is very multi-layered. You will not leave the movie saying “this was the good guy and the other one was the villain”. No, you can sympathise and despise almost all the characters equally. Which character you choose as the most relatable one, will ultimately hinge on your judgement of their actions and motivations. The movie is not afraid to challenge your brain and come up with your own moral guidelines to apply to it.

I’m sorry, does it seem like I am grasping at straws here? But there is not much to criticise in this movie. While the soundtrack is nothing I would buy on CD it is perfect for the movie. Artificial sounds your modem might have might in the 90s. But it is masterfully utilised in the movie to set up suspense and physical unease. Climaxing in a bloody hard to watch scene that only becomes more unbearable as the frenetic noises swell to an almost injuring degree. The relief after this scene passed was immense and stands as an example of expert use of music and sound design.

The movie has its fair share of critique to pass out, technology being the most prevalent. I quite enjoyed the first few subtle shoots, setting Caleb up as constantly being watched through some sort of camera, which is ironic, since we are watching a movie after all, but I digress. The other allusions to the real world are a bit less subtle though. Nathan’s company is named Bluebook and I can’t think of any site that has the word “book” in it and uses blue as its primary colour… It is also the most used search engine and once again I struggle to think of a search engine with two “o”s in the name. No, that’s just me being cynical.

Sure there might be those who call bullshit on the science depicted in this movie, but the word Sci-Fi, or science fiction if you want to get explicit here, exists for a reason. The movie portrayed a consistent picture of the scientific capabilities in that universe. If you can’t enjoy fiction for what it is you might want to start shouting down Fantasy-fans for you not having seen any dragons recently.

All in all Ex Machina is an engaging movie with a rich and encompassing atmosphere. The movie works brilliantly in its own confined little space. It could almost be called a chamber play in that regard. All actors were cast really well and aside from a few nit-picks the movie is solid throughout its runtime. It has a tasteful amount of Sci-Fi even non-fans of the genre might appreciate it, if Interstellar was too much for you that is. Go see the movie with somebody, since it really thrives in the interpretations and discussions afterwards. I still keep thinking about it, even days after seeing it and it’s not because I remembered some hilariously bad piece of dialogue. No, I still think there are aspects I took for granted that might have been fake all along. And if a movie keeps me engaged even after the curtains closed that can only be a major bonus on top of a brilliant movie. I liked it.

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One thought on “No need for a God

  1. Sounds like a very interesting movie that sticks out from the uniform action-movies we´re being more than used to by now where, when it comes to questions of “brain”, it can mostly be found in liquid form on the shoes of the shining hero who just shot it out of his enemy´s head and thus saving the world. And getting the chick, but I digress.
    For me, the conception of the characters sound especially appealing because, seriously, aren´t we a bit too old for dichotomies like “good guy” and “bad guy”? (Which by the way would translate into “good girl” and “bad girl” from a female perspective, taking on a horrifying double-meaning (but I still digress)).
    In any case I´m already looking forward to watching a movie which seems to mark a step in the right direction when it comes to questions of plot (meaning the kind you don´t doze off midway). So, thanks a lot for this inspiring review!

    Like

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