Arts & Life

‘Ex Machina’ draws a definition of humanity ‘from the machine’

No, it’s not “The Terminator” or “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

“Ex Machina” is a film that demonstrates the rare ability to incorporate a variety of different genres and do justice to each of them.

It is difficult to find a modern sci-fi film that doesn’t hammer “science” into its plot as a half-assed excuse for flashing lights and chrome-plated CGI machinery.

It is even more difficult to find a drama that doesn’t depend on exaggerated sexual tension, or a suspense flick that hinges on an arbitrary plot device such as a ticking bomb; let’s not get into thrillers that aren’t a slew of explosions or murders.

Alex Garland’s debut film is a shining example of artistic craftsmanship that encompasses all of the above, forgoing the clichés.

The movie was released in the United Kingdom by Universal Pictures and was expanded to US audiences on April 10. According to The, a research company website, the film grossed $13.5 million internationally— $6.9 million in the U.S alone.

“Ex Machina” chronicles the experiences of an Internet programmer named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) after he wins a weeklong visit with his company’s CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac) in a lottery contest. Upon arrival, he learns that his disturbingly Google-like CEO created a female android named Ava (Alicia Vikander).

Caleb is tasked with performing a Turing test, which aims to determine whether or not a machine’s intelligence is distinguishable from that of a human’s, on Ava.

This plot device is a refreshing return to sci-fi’s roots in thought-provoking abstractions.

The focus of the film is entirely on whether or not Ava has the mind of a human being and, more importantly, what that mind might prompt her to do. While the film certainly has its fair share of flashing lights and whirring motors, their primary purpose is to divert from wandering minds anticipating the next move.

The musical score does an excellent job of building an intense sense of anticipation that isn’t always rewarded. Sometimes a violent “bang” offers an abrupt jump-scare. Sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes you’ll really wish it had.

From sexuality and violence to alcohol and art, “Ex Machina” judiciously makes use of everything at its disposal.

Its full-frontal nudity isn’t blatant fan service; its spatters of blood aren’t melodramatic indulgences in brutality; and its glass bottles aren’t there just to serve as proof that a character is mature or tough. The film is deliberate and purposeful in its entirety, and would be a drastically different experience if any one scene were to be omitted.

In an era of audiences whom have grown accustomed to being spoon fed cookie-cutter plots with nice visuals and lazy writing that’s disguised as philosophically ambiguous endings, “Ex Machina” is a veritable diamond in the rough.

The film tells a solid story and is comfortable enough with itself to give definitive answers or leave its viewers to their own devices at the right times. Alex Garland has done more with his debut film than some directors and writers have done with their entire careers. Go see it.

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