Sunday, January 24, 2016

Ex Machina (2015)

Here's another Oscar Isaac movie that's right up my alley.  This one is an intimate, claustrophobic little sci fi movie with basically four actors:  Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, and Sonoya Mizuna.  Oscar plays Nathan, a brilliant billionaire recluse who's created Artificial Intelligence in the form of Vikander's robot, Eva.  Gleeson arrives at Nathan's remote underground research facility/home to help test Eva, to see if she really is an AI.  Things do not go quite as planned.

This movie is both scripted and directed by Alex Garland, whose script for Sunshine (2007) I absolutely love.  (I found out from the extras on the disc that Oscar Isaac auditioned for a role in Sunshine!  How cool would that have been?  Wonder who he might have played?  Sunshine is also perfectly cast, and so I'm ultimately glad he's not in it, but that would have been cool.)

The casting for this film is perfect, and what makes everything else work.  Oscar Isaac is excellent as the simultaneously friendly and intimidating genius inventor.  He pads around the film barefoot for the most part, looking ridiculously well-built and good-looking in his half-buttoned shirts.  His home/facility is fabulous, built into the rock and earth of a ginormous fictitious estate in Alaska (that you can fly over for two hours before ever reaching his abode).  The remote, beautiful home fits Nathan's personality perfectly, richly and neatly but sparsely furnished.  I love his kitchen and deck.  But the majority of the place is underground, windowless, controlled by computers, and more than slightly claustrophobic.  Worse, there are power glitches in the electrical system that lock everything down at random times, trapping you wherever you are until the power comes back on.

Domhnall Gleeson plays Caleb, an employee of Nathan's company, who supposedly wins a lottery to spend a week with the big boss.  But Nathan's not a chancy person.  Everything he does and sets up is very specific and with purpose.  Caleb is nice, almost too nice, and a bit naive.  He's skinny and awkward and helpful and concerned.  Nathan is much smarter, and much stronger physically, and it's a great contrast between the two.  Nathan takes Caleb on a hike up beside a waterfall, waiting politely for out-of-shape Caleb to catch up, then promptly taking off impolitely again before Caleb can catch his breath.  (This made me laugh, I admit, cuz I've been guilty of doing that to people who weren't in as good a shape as me.  But I've also had it done to me just as many times, so fair's fair.)

Alicia Vikander is wonderful as Eva, the AI Nathan has created, that Caleb helps test.  She brings so much to this role, and has just the right alien quality and humanity at the same time.  The effects on her are also amazing.  She's beautiful and a bit terrifying at the same time.  Nathan prowls his home like a bored lion, and she prowls her much smaller living quarters like a sleek ocelot.  They're both very cat-like, but as one is creator and one is the creation, this works very well.

Sonoya Mizuna plays Nathan's domestic servant, who does not have a single line of dialogue, nor does she need one.  She conveys everything with looks and action, never needing to speak.

This is not an action movie, so the conflict and tension comes from the relationships of the characters.  There's a lot of talking, but I never found any of it boring.  There are a lot of ideas in there to chew on, and I like that.  It is also a very tense movie, particularly as things unravel.  I quite liked the ending, though apparently people's mileage on that varies.

I also love all the little things that you only pick up on in re-watches.  Like Nathan only ever wears grey, black, or white clothes, and I don't think that's an accidental choice, particularly as each color subtly matches his actions of that scene.  It's kind of brilliant, particularly as just about everything in the movie is orchestrated by Nathan.

This one I bought immediately almost as soon as I returned the Netflix disc.  It is rated R for language and some nudity (not sex).


  1. Replies
    1. It is an intriguing movie, and one of those where I catch new stuff each time I see it.

  2. The presence of Alicia Vikander has me sold on wanting to see this at some point -- that and your great fascination with it :-)

    1. Alicia is amazing, that's for sure! I love her in this. (It looks like it's free on Amazon prime right now... just saying, LOL!)

    2. So it is! Should we watch it together next week?

    3. You know I will have no objections to that! LOL!