I didn’t expect too much from Ex Machina walking in to the film. I had seen the trailer every week for what feels like months, a perk of patronizing one of the few theaters that participated in the limited engagement I suppose, but I wasn’t terribly impressed. It looked like a competent but pedestrian sci-fi thriller with a second act twist I was reasonably sure I had figured out in advance. I was wrong about all of those things. I was wrong about the twist, I was wrong about the film being pedestrian, and the film is so far beyond pedestrian I’m ashamed at the thought. Ex Machina is one of the most compelling, gripping, transfixing movie I have seen in quite some time. It’s such a fascinating movie to talk about that I’m crestfallen that it is in such a limited release that I will likely have to wait weeks to talk about it with anyone. I want to stand on street corners and bully passersby to go buy tickets, more people need to see this movie.
Ex Machina is the first directorial effort from veteran screenwriter Alex Garland and it’s almost unbelievable how skilled he is as a novice. While he is working with a small cast the performances he gets from his actors are uniformly excellent. Oscar Isaac has been fantastic in every film I’ve seen him in but he’s on another level here as Nathan. Nathan is a character that needs to have a quiet menace about him and Isaac oozes it from every pore. He commands all attention when he’s on screen in much the way I imagine it would be to share a room with a predatory cat. Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander make for a fascinating on-screen duo as the software engineer Caleb and the artificial intelligence (Ava) he has come to test and I suspect that their performances will feel even more special on repeat viewings once the viewer understands the whole story.