“Ex Machina”: A Small Indie Sci-fi Film You Might Miss but Maybe Shouldn’t

On Thursday I got to see the movie Ex Machina.  Ex Machina is a somewhat unknown indie sci-fi thriller that has been getting a lot of buzz by critics at film festivals around the world.  Well, it’s finally out for wide release. I decided to go see it without knowing more than it’s about artificial intelligence.  So, is it worth your time?  Yes, but with one main caveat: it’s slow.

Ex Machina is a very small movie in that it takes place at an isolated facility away from humanity at large.  On top of that, there are four main characters, one of whom never talks.  That alone may turn many people off to this film. That would be a shame because this movie has a lot to say about self, identity, captivity, responsibility, and freedom, explored in a way that other movies such as Chappie and probably Age of Ultron never could.

“How does it feel to have created something that hates you?” Ava

Nathan, the CEO of Bluebook, a Google analog, is brilliantly acted by Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year). When Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson, About Time), a Bluebook employee, wins an employee lottery, he meets Ava (Alicia Vikander / Anna Karenina), a beautiful AI machine. He is then thrust into a world of intrigue, distrust, and interesting back and forth with his brilliant but possibly crazy boss. Through a seven session interview structure, Caleb begins to see Ava for what she truly is: a unique and incredible creation. It is their relationship in contrast to the relationship between Caleb and Nathan, her creator, where the majority of the tension is found.

Ex Machina, though a thriller, is not fast paced action, but it is a slow burn intelligent drama with a sci-fi premise. That’s not a bad thing, just something to know going in. The majority of the thrills take place in the quiet moments with little to no dialogue accentuated by an eerie eighties-esque score.

With a lot of high budget summer blockbusters on the way, it would be easy to let Ex Machina fall through the cracks. Don’t let that happen. Granted, this kind of movie is not for everyone, so don’t go based on the critical Rotten Tomatoes score. But, if you’re looking for an interesting dive into the world of artificial intelligence discussed in a intellectual, beautifully shot film, then Ex Machina is the ticket! Also, that’s a very specific niche you’re looking for. In his directorial debut, Alex Garland, writer of Sunshine and 28 Days Later, shows incredible promise and is a director I will be following as his career progresses.

Warning, content breakdown may contain spoilers, read at your own risk. Ex Machina deals with with many difficult issues including the objectification and domination of women by men. Each of Nathan’s former robots were all beautiful naked women, one of whom becomes his mute servant and doubles as an Asian sex robot. Many women are seen in various states of undress, including Ava when, near the end of the film she finds her predecessors and covers her mechanical body with their fake skin. Though none of the scenes involving nudity are sexual in nature and lean more towards tragic or thought provoking, I was not expecting as much nudity as I got. For a more in depth content breakdown, check the links below.

Ex Machina is a very intriguing film. I found myself puzzling over it the entire day after seeing it. To me, that is a what a great film should do. I know it is not for everyone but for those who are interested by the trailer below, I highly recommend it.

Bryce Cooley
I've been doing some form of ministry since 2000. For 13 years I was involved in the youth ministry at Cordova Neighborhood Church as everything from youth intern to youth pastor. God has led me and my lovely wife Bethany to Church of the Foothills where I currently reside as the Digital Publishing Coordinator. I'm excited to see where God leads my wife and I.