This is a weird time of year for movie releases. The slump of winter is over and summer season hasn't quite kicked in. Ex Machina is one of those quiet films that's mainstream enough to get a wide-release, but is still very artsy.
PLOT- A programmer named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), wins a seemingly random contest. The prize is a week with the CEO of the internet company where Caleb is employed. Nathan (Oscar Issac), the CEO, is an eccentric inventor who lives in a mansion in the wilderness that is only accesible by helicopter. Caleb finds himself stuck in this high-tech estate, where he quickly learns that he has been picked to participate in Nathan's experiments with A.I.'s, specifically an A.I. named Ava (Alicia Vikander). Caleb is attracted to Ava and he soon questions his role in the experiments.
LIKE- Alex Garland is favorite writer of mine and the story is strong. Right from the start, it was dynamic and engaging with this mysterious contest and Caleb being dropped off to stay in an utterly amazing mansion. The set is fabulous with the high-tech mansion that utilizes its natural surroundings. It's the ideal setting to emphasize the themes of humans vs machines. I really loved how the film bookends with Caleb and Ava each experiencing the wonder of both this mansion and nature. Gleeson and Vikander have chemistry and are well cast. There is a great sense of wonder and discovery, which leads so some beautifully rendered moments. The best part, was the film was entirely unpredictable. I thought that I had it all sussed out based on the preview, but I was completely wrong. I love when a story can surprise me. Garland concocted a keen manipulation of the audience and I bought into it.
DISLIKE- It's a little slow in the middle. Earlier in the year, we got into watching a British show called Black Mirror and this felt very much like an extended version of one of the episodes of that series. In fact, Domhnall Gleeson even played an A.I. on an episode of Black Mirror. This isn't so much a negative about the movie, although I wondered if it needed to be a feature length film, rather than a television episode. I have no idea if the series has any connection to Ex Machina, but it felt very similar in tone, writing and theme. I highly recommend the series if you haven't seen it. It's on Netflix.
RECOMMEND- Yes. This movie stayed with me long after we walked out of the theater. It's engaging and beautifully written. There is some violence and creepy imagery, but it works with the story.