Sunday, April 26, 2015

'Ex Machina' Review: I Robot, You Jane?

A pretty face (Alicia Vikander as Ava) is only part of the story in "Ex Machina."
A funny thing happened on the way to Sci Fi Blockbuster Season - a movie that is definitely worth your time hit theaters to little acclaim.

If you've been overwhelmed by the publicity and rumors surrounding "Avengers: Age of Ultron," "Mad Max: Fury Road," "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," "Terminator: Genisys," "Tomorrowland," "Fantastic Four," "Ant-Man" and a certain superhero movie that doesn't come out for nearly another year (we're looking at you, Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne), you may have missed the artistic and critical success that is "Ex Machina."

No, the future of all humanity is not at risk (not yet, anyway).

No, you're not going to witness spandex-clad heroes battling armies of high-tech warriors (although artificial intelligence is the centerpiece of the plot).

Instead, "Ex Machinia" is smartly written, well-acted and edgy. In other words, it's an actual Movie rather than an Event.
And it pays off in every way.

The plot is pretty straightforward, at least at first. A young and innocent programmer (Caleb Smith, portrayed by Domhnall Gleeson) at a computer behemoth (imagine Google and Facebook having a baby) wins a contest to assist his reclusive boss (Nathan Bateman, played by Oscar Isaac) on a secret project. Bateman has created an artificial intelligence named Ava (Alicia Vikander). He needs Smith to help him conduct a Turing test to determine whether Ava can pass as human. The first conversations between Nathan and Ava are fascinating, but they soon take a troubling turn.

(Minor spoilers: "innocent" in the previous paragraph actually means "not so innocent," "reclusive" means "crazy" and Ava - android or not - is hot.)

One of the things that makes "Ex Machina" such a fascinating study in human/android terms is that, for all practical purposes, the film has just four characters. You've already met three. The fourth is Kyoko (Sonoyo Mizuno), Bateman's Japanese assistant who speaks no English to prevent her from stealing any industrial secrets, 

(Minor spoiler: If you cannot guess Kyoko's own secret, you are dismissed. Never come back here again.)

Who's in charge in this classic sci fi plot of man v. man v. she-machine? Bateman, wonderfully eccentric, would like to think he is in total control. Both he and the audience soon learn, however, that there is more than meets the eye (or hidden camera) to Caleb. And Ava? She's full of surprises. Don't dismiss Kyoko, either.

"Ex Machina" is a stylish, polished thriller that happens to be sci fi.

No comments:

Post a Comment