Ex Machina Review
Thought-provoking sci-fi at its best
Thoughtful but intense, bold but philosophical, the directorial debut from writer/director Alex Garland is likely to be one of the best sci-fis of 2015.Reportedly Garland is quite concerned about the fact that, after the flop that was Dredd, any failure related to his debut may well seal his fate in the film industry. Fans will be shocked by this, not least because his vision of Judge Dredd proved to be a much-loved, unflinchingly faithful portrayal of the iconic character. It's bad enough that we may never get a worthy sequel to that little masterpiece, but Ex Machina is arguably even worse news. A masterpiece of original indie filmmaking which is likely to disappear without a trace from your local multiplexes within a few days of release.The story involves a young programmer who wins a competition to visit the reclusive founder of the company he works for, which is itself a thinly-veiled variation on Google, and spend a week on his thousand-acre estate. What he finds there, however, is much more than he bargained, as his enigmatic host reveals the latest project that he has been working on in secret: a ground-breaking new A.I.
Fans of great sci-fi, and in particular Ridley Scott's masterpiece Blade Runner, will absolutely love this thought-provoking gem. It may not look, or sound, or influence like Blade Runner does, but it shares one vital element. Garland, using a simplistic analogy has essentially taken the Voight-Kampff interviews from that film and fashioned them into an entire movie. Of course, the VK test was utterly fictional, but it was based on a real thing - the Turing test - a theory on how to differentiate between the responses of a man and a machine. The idea was that a perfect A.I. would pass this test and be indiscernible from its human counterparts, and Garland brings this whole concept to wonderful, dark, and tense life within Ex Machina.
Like all truly effective sci-fi works, you're left thinking about the ideas and issues raised in the film long after the credits roll.
Working on a minimalistic budget and, as with Dredd, in essentially one distinctive but still limited location, Garland fashions taut thrills from simple verbal exchanges, and sows seeds of mistrust not only in his characters but in his audiences. You'll question what you're seeing as much as the characters question who they are - Man, machine, or God? And then you'll wonder whether, morally, it makes any difference; whether the blurring of a line between man and machine has the effect of also blurring the line between machines as soul-less objects and as thinking and feeling entities who, you might argue, arguably have the same basic rights as you or I. Slick and stylish, provocative and powerful, this near-perfectly engineered construct is destined to be one of the best films of the year. It comes with the highest recommendation.
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