Ex Machina or rather Deus Ex Machina, God from the machine is the phrase from which the title of Alex Garland's new film is coined. It concerns A.I. or artificial intelligence, a holy grail along with perpetual motion, immortality and time travel. The machine is built by humankind but God is inferred.
Certain mysteries are outside the grasp of human understanding. All our technology, math and science are no guarantee of the survival of the species, especially when we play with the forces of creation. The singularity of exactly when our machines will become sentient and a life force capable of their own procreation cannot be mapped anymore than the weather.
The singularity will arrive precipitously on its own prerogative. That is what happens to the chagrin of Nathan Bateman (played by Oscar Isaac) the would be Promethean demi-god and creator of Ava (Alicia Vikander), the central artificial humanoid in the story.
The themes covered by this excellent work of science fiction have been investigated before but Ex Machina does it with freshness and clarity. The film ends in a conflagration of clarity when the genie escapes the bottle and an evil opens Pandora's box.
The pacing of the film is even and the cinematic approach is refreshing. The effects serve the story unlike so many current science fiction films where the effects are heavy and the story if any gets left to function like the tail wagging the dog. Ex Machina was made for lunch money at only 20 million, but the shot volume and production values are impressive and at no time are we distracted by budget constraints seeping out on screen.
The film has a quiet grace while it examines horrific, cataclysmic ideas of playing god, the birth of a new species and human extinction by technological suicide. I liked the subtext of a three way chess match between Ava, Nathan and Caleb Smith played by (Domhnall Gleeson) where one discovered check after another reverses the plot several times.
This may be as much of a horror film as it is a science fiction film. It shares the same story DNA as, Alien, Solaris, Forbidden Planet and The Thing from Another World where an invisible and dangerously clever monster stalks among us. I would say that Ex Machina will hold up and stand the test of time. Is it fizz or is it fizzle? This is definitely fizz.
Ira Harmon | film reviewer for Pop Machine