movies: ex machina

ex machina - what happens to me if I fail your test?
I'm really not sure whether I have the words to describe Ex Machina...

Questions like "was it good?" and "did I enjoy it?" don't necessarily seem... relevant maybe.

What it is, like the AI Ava herself, is not all together clear, but at the same time compelling.

Right off the bat though, I have to say that Alicia Vikander who plays Ava is fantastic. There is just so much going on in her face the entire time. It's not really a big, fast, loud, action oriented movie, so everything that all of the actors do with their faces is incredibly important, but Vikander most of all. Not to mention the way she uses her body... it's that little bit too precise or too fluid that feels "other".

And the visual effects that allow Ava to exist on screen are absolutely breathtaking. Generally I can be a little blasé about CGI, it's either something that's so good that you don't notice at all, or else is bad in some way and therefore incredibly noticeable. This manages to be both amazingly good and noticeable all at the same time.

But you still buy into it... while I was completely aware of how it had to have been done, I still bought that Ava was there and walking around.

Likewise the production design, the use of lighting, the sound design... it all works incredibly well together to create the feeling of claustrophobia or dread or whatever the scene called for. I feel like the theatre we saw it in may have had the volume cranked up a little too high on the sound, but even so the use of sound was excellent.

Circling around to the actors again, this is one of those movies with essentially enough actors to count on one hand.... and to have a finger left over. Domhnall Gleeson does good work as Caleb, the "everyman" character... and Oscar Isaac has a Mark Zuckerberg, Howard Hughes, Steve Jobs kind of hybrid thing going on as Nathan... although it was pretty clear to me from almost the first moment we meet him that he's not a nice guy.

So, let's see... the actors were good, the production design, effects, sound and lighting... all good. Then where does this movie transition between having individual components that are good and not being something that I really want to rave about or give perfect marks to?

And that really comes down to the plot and the script.

It's not bad... don't get me wrong. It's just more that even a couple of hours on I'm still not sure exactly how I feel about it. Part of that is due to the deliberate awkwardness between the characters, particularly Nathan and Caleb... but also that awkwardness as Caleb attempts to test Ava's personality to see if she passes as a human.

Without getting into spoiler territory too much, it also has to do with the way the movie ends, and the series of changes in direction to the plot as it moves towards the climax. I will stress again, that these aren't bad changes, they just left me confused about who I was supposed to be rooting for... and at the same time managed to distance me from all of the characters. I also picked a couple of them before they happened, so what I think was supposed to be a big reveal didn't really work for me that well.

Essentially it's not an easy movie to like in the usual sense... but it is intriguing.

yani's rating: 4 keycards out of 5

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