It’s been a while since I was truly excited and hooked by a film. Ex-Machina ended that for me. Even though I only watched it on a tiny screen on the back of a plane seat its obvious quality shone through. Devised and directed by Alex Garland the writer of the novel ‘The Beach’ and the film that inspired the zombie film revival ‘28 Days Later’ it is a contemporary take on the dark side of robotics. A young programmer for the world’s largest search engine BlueBook (played by a Zuckerburg-like Domhnall Gleeson) wins the chance to stay with a famed Silicon Valley entrepreneur Nathan (played by Oscar Isaac) at his remote retreat.
While there it is revealed to him that Nathan has made astonishing advances in robotics and wants him to test the new model he has made (played by Alicia Vikander)
The subtle game of bluff that ensues in the following hour and half keeps you guessing as to whom exactly is in control in this bizarre triangle.
What adds even more to the tale is the brilliant set design and casting. Placing the retreat in a rural place rather than some space age world of the future makes it feel real and places you somewhere in Oregon or Northern Cali even though no location is ever specified in the film.
The entrepreneur is also unexpected. A ‘macho Jock meets coder’ creation courtesy of Isaac who offers a brutal physical presence to allay his obviously razor sharp mind and colossal ego.
When placed against the weedy and sensitive Gleeson the effect is to fear for Gleeson’s safety.
While the robot Vikander creates is delicate, child-like and easily hurt but somewhere beneath all that lurks a darker presence that we glimpse in flashes.
This balancing act is what makes the movie so intriguing and when allied with Geoff Barrow soundtrack we have a wonderful economically beautiful film that will stay with you all year.

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