SXSW REVIEW: Ex-Machina

For Sci-Fi fans the outlook for original content is bleak. In the area of nostalgic remakes, it’s hard for film makers to breath under the weight of monolithic studio output. This is what makes a film like EX MACHINA so special.

Alex Garland’s directorial debut acts as a swan song to broad reach intelligent cinema. I’ve always been a fan of Garland’s writing (SUNSHINE is on my short list for late night must see cinema), so I was very excited for his take on a not so distant future.

The film follows Caleb, a programmer for a fictional Google called “Blue Book”, who has been selected to spend a week with the company’s founder and CEO Nathan. While this may seem just like a networking dream come true, Caleb quickly discovers that he is about to be a part of the next technological leap forward. Nathan, has created the world’s first fully functional artificial intelligence called AVA.

While the discovery alone makes for a great piece of science fiction, it’s the constant mind games that Garland plays with his characters and audience that makes EX MACHINA so special. Like SUNSHINE, Garland finds ways to shift your locality to different characters through the film, making its conclusion that much more satisfying.

None of this would be possible without the brilliant cast that Garland assembled. Alicia Vikander makes AVA, seductive, adorable and captivating even while wearing a skin tight green screen Lycra suit, but it’s Oscar Isaac that makes the film.

I think this is the year that Isaac makes that great leap forward on to every director’s short list. He plays Nathan with the confidence required, to make the viewer crave his mind games. I loved and hated Nathan, and all that credit goes to Isaac.

EX MACHINA, will be hard to beat for the best film of the year. The 2015 slate is stacked and with a start like this, I’m excited to see what the rest of the year has in store. Everyone must see EX MACHINA!

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