Ex Machina: A Review

Deus ex machina is defined as: ‘a calque from Greek meaning “god from the machine”. The term has evolved into a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object. Depending on how it is done, it can be intended to move the story forward when the writer has “painted himself into a corner” and sees no other way out, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending or as a comedic device.’

Written and directed by Alex Garland – also known for having written and produced films like Dredd or Never Let Me GoEx Machina is a gripping science fiction story that poses questions about what it means to be human and, more importantly, what it means to be a god. The film stars Domhnall Gleeson ( Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) as Caleb, a computer coder who is given the chance to spend some time with  tech genius Nathan, played by Oscar Isaac ( A Most Violent Year). During his stay at Nathan’s house he will meet Ava, played by Alicia Vikander ( Testament of Youth), an A.I. Nathan has been developing. Caleb will find out that his purpose is to asses if Ava’s behaviour is convincing enough to make him believe that she is ‘human’.

The story has characteristics similar to those of myths and legends. Even though it is centered around a modern, contemporary issue (i.e: the existence of Artificial Intelligence), the film raises questions as old as time: what does it mean to be human? Who has a right to decide over another being’s existence? What does it mean to be a god? What happens when humans try to be gods? And from this point of view, the title could not be more appropriate.  The plot centers on ideas of creation, of invention and evolution. It centers on humans trying to play God, but it is never clear who the “god from the machine is”. Furthermore, given the emotional and moral complexity of the characters, it also remains unclear who the character who resolves the problem is or, for that matter, if the problem is resolved at all. However, one thing is certain: Ex Machina is a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It is a film for those who seek stories that challenge them intellectually and morally, that make them think and ask themselves questions. The action of the film takes place in a tense, uncertain atmosphere, and it is up to the viewer to decide if the ‘deus ex machina’ serves to surprise the audience, give a happy ending or a comedic one.

In addition to the challenging plot, the film offers great visuals. It clearly gives great attention to landscapes and colours that are smooth and rough at the right time and go hand in hand with the story. The soundtrack as well as the acting are synchronized with the tone of the film. The soundtrack is so subtle, it sometimes goes unnoticed and the actors manage to find the perfect balance needed to transmit their characters’ feelings and emotions.

All in all, Ex Machina tells a story that has been told before, but it manages to do it in a new and certainly interesting way. The attention to details cannot be overlooked and the film will give the viewers a different and, most likely, memorable experience.




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