Director: Alex Garland
Writer: Alex Garland
Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander, & Sonoya Mizuno
One-Line Plot Synopsis: A programmer (Gleeson) is brought in to test a new A.I. (Vikander) at the house of its creator (Isaac).
I don't want to overly gush too much about this movie going into this review but I think I'm going to have a hard time sticking to that self-imposed guideline for Ex Machina. There's always a weird balance of trying to figure out if a movie is as great as I think it is or if it's just purely suited to what I thoroughly enjoy in a movie. I have a sneaky hunch that I'm right about this one and that's it's freaking spectacular. I was going to say that it's one of the best science fiction movies I've seen in a while but after thinking about it, I don't want to pigeon-hole that comment into a specific genre (even though it's true). This is one of my favorite movies that I've seen in a long time. Completely original, great acting, great writing, great directing (I should really look up some synonyms for great huh?), and just a wholly unique movie watching experience.
I'll start with the acting. There's only 4 characters in the entire movie. With such a stripped down cast in a relatively singular setting, it puts a ton of pressure on each person to really carry the weight of their individual character. If one of the four is shit, then the movie almost has no shot to work out overall. It doesn't hurt that three of the actors in the movie are sky-rocketing up the Hollywood ladder and popping up in the biggest and best movies out there. Oscar Issac is currently entrenched in my current top ten favorite actors and just started up in the new Star Wars franchise. Domhnall Gleeson is proving that he was gifted with the same talents as his dad Brendan and not only joined the cast of Star Wars as well, but also had a large role in the best picture winning movie The Revenant. Alicia Vikander is basically hoarding every prestigious young female movie role out there right now. The interplay of these three main characters is superb. The relationship between each subset of two of them is so different and played uniquely different to their specific characters. It's a master class of acting all around. I truly can't say enough about each of them.
The story, written and directed by Alex Garland, is...let me see how many complimentary adjectives I can fit in here: Original, Deep, Thought-Provoking, Innovative, Authentic, Engaging, Compelling, Beautiful, Provocative, Unusual, Artistic, & Captivating...OK, I think that's good enough. Let's move on shall we? Garland was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for Ex Machina, so I guess I'm not alone in thinking it was a special piece of writing. Garland has made a career out of writing mostly darker science fiction. Stories like The Beach, Sunshine (which I think is underrated), and 28 Days Later... are prime examples of what he's extremely talented at. He can create a world that is stripped down to an incredibly small scale and thus can focus on the relationships between people in a very secluded setting. That type of scenario usually amplifies the tension and uncovers the deepest and darkest things that human beings are capable of when pushed to their limits and faced with the impossible decisions regarding their own survival. He's somehow able to get across the internal struggles of people in his writing, a very rare talent. Usually when you read something that has a character's thoughts written out and what they are thinking about particular events, it's really hard to show that on an external platform like a movie. Garland has somehow mastered that skill. This was his first crack at directing and I was really impressed with the tone he was able to achieve and weave through the movie. I think he should keep on with directing his original screenplays whenever he can. We may have found a really special talent in Alex Garland.
This was one of the most enjoyable movie watching experiences I've had in quite some time. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
P.S. I pretty much include this about once a month in any group chat I have going.