MOVIE REVIEW: Beautifully crafted thriller

Ex Machina
Ex Machina
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EX MACHINA (15)

SHOWCASE CINEMAS PETERBOROUGH, OUT NOW

CAST: OSCAR ISAAC, DOMHNALL GLEESON & ALICIA VIKANDER

RUNNING TIME: 1 HR 48 MINS

DIRECTOR: ALEX GARLAND

Writer Alex Garland’s directorial debut is a stylish, thought-provoking, sci-fi thriller – as he effortlessly makes the transition from page to behind the lens.

After scribing the likes of The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go and Dredd, this hauntingly dark and twisted hybrid of Her, Solaris, 2001: A Space Odyssey and I, Robot is a truly imaginative piece of cinema.

Fortunately the task is made easier with three of Hollywood’s brightest stars at his disposal in Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson, with the latter two starring together in the forthcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens – which instantly shows that JJ Abrams has pulled together some fine young talent for the continuation of film’s best-known property.

Gleeson (Bill Weasley from the Harry Potter films) stars as promising young programmer Caleb, who wins a competition to spend a week at the private Norwegian mountain retreat belonging to his ‘minted’ boss and reclusive CEO Nathan (Isaac, who has also just snagged the role of villain Apocalypse in the next X-Men movie) – who owns the world’s largest internet company Bluebook.

But when he arrives at the remote location, he finds that he will have to participate in a strange and fascinating experiment in which he must interact with the world’s first true artificial intelligence, housed in the body of entrancing cyborg girl Ava (Vikander).

As Caleb starts to evaluate the human qualities of the AI robot – with their every move studied by the mysteriously creepy and heavy-drinking Nathan – he realises not everything is what it seems in the solitude of the high-tech surroundings.

But with time running out and his feelings for Ava going beyond friendship, Caleb has to stay one step ahead to potentially prevent her memory ultimately being wiped – if she doesn’t reach the God-like heights set by his boss.

Fortunately with three sensational central performances – particularly from Vikander and Isaac – this is a seductively tense movie gem, that has some killer twists that are subtly exposed by Garland’s intelligent direction.

It perfectly tows the line between art and mainstream – with some impressive computer-generated special effects via Ava to boot – to provide a brain-bending experience that asks a lot of poignant questions about human existence versus burgeoning technology.

It all adds up to a beautifully-crafted movie that film buffs (particularly) should lap up.

By Gavin Miller – Rating: 5/5