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2015

Alicia Vikander as Ava
Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb
Oscar Isaac as Nathan

Written and directed by Alex Garland

Ex Machina is nominated for two Academy Awards ® for Best Visual Effects and Original Screenplay. It was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Alicia Vikander’s supporting role as Ava.

You gotta watch out for the tech geeks, man. They make some crazy stuff. Nathan (Isaac) sets up a Turing experiment for his new AI, Ava (Vikander). He brings Caleb (Gleeson), a programmer at Nathan’s company, to his isolated home/lab to determine whether Ava has true artificial intelligence. If Caleb can’t tell that he’s interacting with a computer, than Nathan has done something truly remarkable. As Caleb goes through the experiment with Ava, he starts to learn some things about his mysterious host, and is inclined to help Ava escape her current existence. Who’s testing whom?

Wow. Deus ex machina, anyone? Let’s see what kind of monkey wrenches will be tossed into the works for this one! What a scary concept. I know it’s already happening, with all of our smart phone, voice/facial recognition, and so many other tech capabilities, but to have it be so well made that we can’t tell if it’s a computer or not? Nope. Absolutely terrifying. And a complete change to the human experience. Who’s even human?

In case you can’t tell, this was my sleeper fave of the year. What a great story. And I’m also extremely glad it’s nominated for visual effects, because it’s AMAZING. Carbon fiber people, man. What else was good?
• I really liked the way the actors gave such excellent characterizations. Nathan as the egomaniacal god-creator-man, Caleb as the simple, impressionable fall guy, and Ava as the subject of scrutiny who doesn’t ever really show what she’s thinking until it’s too late. Great small cast.
• The visual effects. Especially when Ava finds the room of {SPOILER!} previous incarnations. How she {SPOILER!} peels off their skin and puts it on to make herself look and, we presume, feel more like the people she’s around. Not in a creepy, Jame Gumb-type of skin wearing. Just something that feels human and wants to look it, too.
• Alicia Vikander in particular. The halting movements and speech patterns. The haunting looks during stolen moments. The quiet determination as she realizes the events that finish the film. Just incredible. I look forward to more of her films in the future.

Weepy Meter: 1/10 There are some brief moments in which you really empathize with Ava. Can’t help it. She’s good.
Man Meter: 6/10 Technology. Booze. Punching bags. Swearing. And it’s really a great movie.
Overall Rating: 8/10 I saw a pre-release screening, and I walked out with my mind reeling in so many directions. In my opinion, any film that can make you think after it’s over is very well-written and -made. It got to me.

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