There were no winning films for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards beginning with the letter X, so I chose Ex Machina to review as it was nominated for the award. It is a science fiction film that was released in 2014, and is rated R for graphic nudity, language, sexual references and some violence. Ex Machina won an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Visual Effects. The winner of Best Original Screenplay that year was Spotlight.
Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), an employee at BlueBook, wins a staff lottery to spend a week at the CEO’s private mountain residence. Nathan (Oscar Isaac) is a reclusive man, and Caleb is flown by helicopter to his estate. The setting for this part of the film was in Norway, and is truly breathtaking.
Once at the residence, Caleb is told he will be assisting in the testing of an AI (artificial intelligence) that Nathan has created. Caleb is all too happy to be part of this historic event, and meets Ava (Alicia Vikander), the AI who appears to be part human, part machine. Nathan has made her face and hands human, and Caleb and Ava interact with glass walls between them. Does Ava have consciousness? This is the question Caleb is to ask.
The film works as we become aware that all is not what it seems at Nathan’s house. There is a Japanese woman, Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno), who serves them, but other than her, no one else occupies the home. Kyoko doesn’t speak, and Nathan explains that she doesn’t understand English.
As the week at the estate progresses, Caleb becomes suspicious of Nathan, but the viewer is suspicious of everyone, including Ava. Who will be the one to double cross the others? Is Ava capable of humanlike thought, planning, emotion, compassion? Or is she just programmed with traits that Nathan inputted? Who is evil and who is good?
These are all questions you will need to see answered for yourself. I enjoyed the film. Younger adults especially will like Ex Machina for its tech talk, which is of course totally made up and not really that important to the story. The film is quite philosophical on some levels. There are very interesting conversations between Nathan and Caleb. Tension builds as Caleb and Ava learn about each other, and Caleb begins to doubt why he is there. I liked that it was an intelligent mystery to solve, and that it didn’t involve a whole lot of battles or warfare, so common in a sci-fi film.
Alex Garland directed the film and wrote the screenplay. He is the writer of the film 28 Days Later, a very scary horror story, but very well done.
There is a HORRIBLE song featured while the ending credits are scrolling. Feel free to turn it off. I just decreased the volume, as I wanted to confirm where the film was shot (Norway). You don’t need to watch the credits; just enjoy the film’s mystery, beauty and fascinating premise.