Movie Review: Ex Machina

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line: A very effective minimalist movie with high production value. A character driven look into what it means to be human.  The ending is a bit flawed.

What does it mean to be human?  Where is that line and when does one cross it?  “Ex Machina” provides a compelling narrative that focuses on those questions.  A young programmer, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), works at a fictional Google-like company and he wins a lottery which allows him to visit the reclusive brilliant owner of the company, Nathan (Oscar Issac), at his isolated retreat for a week.  It is soon revealed that the real reason Caleb is there is so he can perform a Turing Test on Nathan’s super-secret artificial intelligence, Ava (Alicia Vikander).  A Turing Test is a thought exercise in which a human interacts with an artificial intelligence (AI) to see if the AI exhibits any traits of being non-human.

The movie is broken down into a series of meetings between Caleb and Ava and then a follow-up on the events between Caleb and Nathan.  When you have a movie that consists almost entirely of one-on-one interactions, the dialogue better be good and “Ex Machina” provides a wonderful script.  To back up the wonderful writing, there is a perfectly themed musical score that helps establish the mood and leads to a deeper sense of tension and foreboding.  Movement, language, and music combine into a single on-screen entity.  It is near masterful.

Then comes the ending.  The ending isn’t bad, it’s just kind of unfulfilling.  There are a bunch of loose ends that don’t make much sense.  There is a moment when the end should have occurred, but it kept on going.  I always blame endings like this on test audiences and studio executives.  A good movie got made, but the ending was the price the director paid to get it made in the first place.

Despite the less than fulfilling ending, “Ex Machina” is worth seeing.  You don’t get many compelling, dialogue driven movies these days what with the superheroes and the explosions so it’s good to see the United States is still capable of creating compelling movies that deviate from the norm.

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