Ex Machina (Dir. Alex Garland/2015)
Technology can be scary. Google knows every search you type and Facebook knows who you’re looking at, how often and – with a little informed research - why. Ex_Machina, the feature-film debut of Alex Garland (Writer of The Beach and screenwriter of 28 Days Later…) explores these contemporary issues on a small-scale. Located within the isolated estate of a technological genius, Nathan (Oscar Isaac) invites employee Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) to visit, and ‘test’ his A.I. creation, AVA (Alicia Vikander). Garland is not inexperienced when it comes to cerebral, philosophical explorations on what makes us human. Supported by a throbbing electronic score, Ex-Machina manages to combine the morality of Never Let Me Go with the futuristic-technology of Sunshine. Key-card doors and glassy surfaces create a mise-en-scène that is part-Silent Running and part-iPad – we could be on board a spaceship. The red-lighting and ominous electro-voice hints at HAL-like A.I. rebelliousness from the get-go, but it’s Caleb and Nathan’s relationship that frames the story. Ava, of course, is exceptional – and her motivations are purposefully unclear. But the vest-wearing, lonely-drinker Nathan is a unique creation unto himself. Caleb desperately trying to understand and interact with him is often met with an awkward riposte. Caleb is asking the wrong question or searching for the wrong answers. Alongside Chappie and the sentinel-stories of Marvel, it seems A.I. is a thematic focus-point in this cinematic-era. Ex_Machina though is the superior offering. Juxtaposing questionable ethics of corporate powers with thoughts about identity, it’s a dystopia that seems uncomfortably real.