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Review: Ex Machina

Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac star in A24 Films' "Ex Machina"

When looking at Ex Machina beforehand, there are at least a couple of things that appeared to be guaranteed. One is the fact that there would be a huge budget behind it, the other is that there’s obvious potential for quite the cinematic experience for anyone who fancies themselves intellectuals.

The story in Ex Machina features two intellectuals looking for more than what mankind has ever known in life. After a computer coder named Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a contest, he’s whisked off to the estate of Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), his tech mogul boss who is looking beyond what we know as humans. When he arrives, Caleb realizes he’s in store for something that he couldn’t have ever imagined after everything is explained to him.

What Nathan reveals to him turns out to be what will definitely produce one of the greatest moments in history. Not only that, but he’s being asked to take part of it. For the young programmer, his role in this event will be as the human component in a Turing Test with an earth shattering A.I. Nathan created called Ava (Alicia Vikander). Smith’s job in the experiment is to evaluate this artificial intelligence and see just how much of a consciousness she has. That’s clear on the surface, but what’s discovered could be far more dangerous.

Ex Machina opens up with a sense of wonder that is easy to get into. Once Gleeson’s Caleb Smith lands onto this island like property of Oscar Isaac’s Nathan, you may find yourself being taken in by the lovely environment that’s as nice to look at as one would hope. This is a place where you would take a romantic vacation or go on a honeymoon. It’s a nice, clean utopia with a safe and comfortable essence that goes from the outside all the way to the darkest corners of the actual home.

Once inside of these secluded walls inhabited by the highly intelligent mogul, the audience is soon introduced to the story featuring the two intelligent men on a voyage to create the most intelligent A.I. the world has ever known. This aspect of the film is imperative to everything that we’re asked to watch, and it’s not hard to pay attention to. The style of this picture is painted in a way that makes you want to focus on what’s being dished out since it’s easy to become fixated on what’s taking place and how everything is going to unfold.

At this point, things are clearly on the positive end of the spectrum for us as viewers, but unfortunately, the rest of Ex Machina is simply unable to keep those vibes flowing it that direction. Instead of rewarding us and itself with something that could maintain that profound level of suspense and wonder, what follows is a piece of cinema that’s far too slow and regrettably conventional. After sitting there for a while, you’ll start to realize that not a whole lot is happening and the intelligent vibrations given off by its characters are nothing more than superficial banter.

Once the sense of wonder withers away after everything is explained in the first act, you really begin to feel the lack of quality. Aside from it being to slow, you will also soon realize that it’s as predictable as you were hoping it wouldn’t be. Based on the ideas it has, that should never be an issue for a film like Ex Machina, but instead of giving us something new or fresh, Alex Garland falls back on the tried and true aspects of cinema that many have grown tired of long ago.

This formulaic feature turns out to be far too easy to predict about one third of the way through its run time. It got to the point where all of the supposed surprises that are in store for us are able to be spotted way before they are actually revealed to us. With a movie that’s supposed to be cerebral, that should never occur.

Another issue that I have with Ex Machina comes from the eventual need for the very intelligent people in this film to be dumber than the average dumb person when the story calls for it. This is a somewhat common flaw that makes it seem as if someone didn’t have the ability to make the elements of what’s taken place work together. Instead of finding a way to make sense, you dumb down the geniuses in a way that wouldn’t possibly be possible.

With all of the complaining that I do in this review, you might think that I hate Ex Machina, but that’s not true. Thanks to some of the early scenes and the acting (especially Oscar Isaac), this isn’t a complete waste. I just wish that Alex Garland was able to offer up more than what we get here. The actors did their part, but I can’t say that he did his as well I he should have. He had a ton of ideas, but he isn’t able to do as much as he should have with them.

Rating: R

Director: Alex Garland

Cast:
Domhnall Gleeson
Oscar Isaac
Alicia Vikander
Asian woman

Film Length: 110 minutes

Release Dates:
April 10, 2015 (Limited)
April 24, 2015 (Wide)

Distributor: A24 Films

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