Sunday, 26 April 2015

Film Review: "Ex Machina" (2015).

"What happens to me if I fail your test?"
This is the question asked in Ex Machina. This British science fiction psychological thriller film written and directed by Alex Garland in his directorial debut. The film centres on Caleb, a 26 year old coder at the world's largest internet company, wins a competition to spend a week at a private mountain retreat belonging to Nathan, the reclusive CEO of the company. But when Caleb 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 a beautiful robot girl.

The foundation for Ex Machina was laid when Garland was 11 or 12 years old, after he had done some basic coding and experimentation on a computer his parents had bought him and which he sometimes felt had a mind of its own. His later ideas came from years of discussions he had been having with a friend with an expertise in neuroscience, who claimed machines could never become sentient. Trying to find an answer on his own he started reading books on the topic. During the pre-production of Dredd (2012), while going through a book by Murray Shanahan about consciousness and embodiment, Garland had an "epiphany". The idea was written down and put aside till later. Shanahan, along with Adam Rutherford, became a consultant for the film, and the ISBN of his book is referred to as an easter egg in the film. Other inspirations came from films like Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Ken Russell's Altered States (1980), and books written by Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ray Kurzweil and others. Wanting total creative freedom, without having to add conventional action sequences, he made the film on as small a budget as possible. The film was shot over six weeks in 2013 at Pinewood Studios and at Juvet Landscape Hotel in Valldalen, Norway.

To create Ava's robotic features, they filmed the scenes both with and without actress Alicia Vikander's presence, which allowed them to capture the background behind her. The parts they wanted to keep, especially her hands and face, were then rotoscoped while the rest was digitally painted out and the background behind her restored. Camera- and body-tracking systems transferred Vikander's performance to the CGI robot's movements. In total, there were about 800 VFX shots, of which 350 or so were robot shots.

It stars Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac and Sonoya Mizuno. The cast gave superb performances. Vikander, out of the cast, gave the best performance as she brought a performance of otherworldly entity unlike any other.

Ex Machina proves an audacious directorial debut for writer Alex Garland and a solid entry in modern British sci-fi, with thematic heft to match its genre thrills. It's a brooding, stylish, highly atmospheric future-noir thriller. As well as being a smart, thought-provoking little thriller. Brimming with ideas and laudable ambition, it's well worth a look.

Simon says Ex Machina receives:

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