‘Ex Machina’ is a new age classic


By Jacob Pierce, @JacobPierce1_DE

Hard science fiction is a genre known for questioning technology and the advancement of the world. The genre tends to contrast the more futuristic, extraordinary feeling of science fantasy, making a more grounded, realistic think piece. In a world of ever advancing technology, this medium has become commonplace.

“Ex Machina” (Rated R; 107 min) directed by Alex Garland, is more Stanley Kubrick than George Lucas. It is smart, witty and thrilling all at the same time. 

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Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson, is a computer programmer working for an eccentric billionaire, played by Oscar Isaac. The programmer wins a contest through the billionaire’s company, allowing him to spend a week with his boss, seeing how the genius lives.

Once Caleb arrives at his boss’ estate, the billionaire shows him his new invention: an artificial intelligence device named Ava, played by Alicia Vikander. As Caleb starts to test the validity of Ava’s existence, questions of the billionaire’s intentions arise. The programmer soon realizes the situation may not be what it seems.

This film is amazing and will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. As the plot twists and the end begins to unfold, it is hard to measure how captivated you feel.

It practically gives you a panic attack with each event unfolding, only calming down as the credits roll.

The comparison between “Ex Machina” and a Kubrick film does not stop at its intelligence. Alex Garland, the writer of “28 Days Later,” has always brought a cold quality to his work similar to the late director’s style. Garland’s directorial debut does not disappoint in this area.

The movie is frigid, both in tone and in set design. It may as well have been set on the ice planet Hoth with the way it flows and the bleak situation of its characters.

Because of its tone, doom is obvious for the main protagonists. This connects the audience to Caleb, the billionaire Nathan and Ava despite their flaws. It extenuates what makes each character so likeable.


Each individual is dynamic, imperfect and human. A film in which even the robotic character inhabits relatable traits, showcases a writer/director who understands how to create compelling roles.

Caleb is played empathically by Gleeson. He is a 26-year-old fighting loneliness and awkwardness; these characteristics describe most young adults today. You love and hate him at the same time, wishing you could be there in his worst moments.

Isaac plays Nathan, the eccentric billionaire, who gained his wealth through a Facebook-like social media invention. The actor inhabits the role we assume these billionaires would be like; a mixture of Tony Stark and Howard Hughes, all in a Mark Zuckerberg skin.

And with any extraordinary type, comes all the flaws which build them. Nathan is an alcoholic, who regularly keeps information from Caleb and Ava. When the artificial intelligence warns Caleb of Nathan’s “intentions,” it is all one can do to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Yet, the character continually pulls viewers in. He is funny, smart and down to earth. Nathan could have a conversation with anyone, while also creating an android out of nothing.

Even when he becomes the villain of the film, in dynamic antagonist fashion, it is hard to hate him fully.

Stars: 5 out 5