It’s not often that I’m excited about a science fiction film, most of them tend to be retreads of old ideas mass produced at budgets several times the cost of this one yet not a single one of those science fiction films has what this one has. A simple, original story, asking an old question: what makes us human?
The story begins with a red-haired man named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) who’s won a lottery at work that everyone gathers around to congratulate him on. That’s when we see him in a helicopter flying over a long stretch of land with what appears to be nothing covering it except vast greenery and mountains.
The helicopter lands and Caleb follows a river that leads him to the estate of his employer, Nathan (Oscar Issac). Caleb and Nathan have an uneasy beginning, like most employer/employee relationships, but when Caleb signs a non-disclosure agreement, despite his initial misgivings, he begins to see that he made the correct decision. Especially after Nathan introduces him to his latest creation, Ava (Alicia Vikander), and it his here in the sessions where Caleb administers testing to Ava that determine whether or not she’s truly aware the way we are, that the film takes shape.
The two men in the film do fine jobs in their roles, but it’s Alicia Vikander as Ava, that steals the show. She had an extraordinarily tough balancing act to pull off, that of appearing human yet somehow distant and artificial with a tinge of something else going on all beneath her seemingly naive surface. It won’t come as a shock, when award season comes around, that she’s nominated for at least one of her eight upcoming projects.
Ex-Machina is a subtle, unnerving little tale that’s well-acted, well-written and well-directed, and all the right ingredients to form a future classic in the science fiction genre.