Alex Garland is the acclaimed author of The Beach, the same novel that was adapted for film by Danny Boyle. Boyle and Garland collaborated again on a number of films including 28 Days Later and Sunshine – both of which were considered reasonable successes.
So now comes the time for Garland to spread his wings, taking what he has learnt from Boyle and applying to his own source material.
What I love most about having a screenwriter directing, is their attention to detail. Garland has really thought about the characters, their back stories and motives – he knows what they are interested in and what choices they have made to end up where they are.
The best example of this is with the explanation of how Oscar Isaac’s genius coder was able to create Artificial Intelligence. It’s revealed earlier that his character created a search engine algorithm, similar to Google, when he was just thirteen. He explains that by illegally monitoring and capturing the search engine data it helped to understand the human thought process – including instinct, interest and emotion. It’s these little ideas that give credibility to the overall premise.
That being said, the casting choices here are exceptional too. Both Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson are as good as we’ve come to expect. They both seem to make really smart career choices, which is a testament to why they’ve earned roles in J. J. Abrams’ new Star Wars reboot.
Similarly, newcomer Alicia Vikander proves she’s much more than a very pretty face. While initially sounding like a recreation of Scarlet Johansson’s A.I. voice in Her, Vikander brings so much innocence and wonder to the role. Her movement and facial expressions are the perfect balance between human and mechanical.
The real problem with Garland’s film, is that the ending (make that the entire last half) doesn’t do the beginning justice. And to be completely honest, this lack of closure will force you to reconsider his previous work too. They’re all very similar in execution.
It becomes clear that yes, Garland is undoubtedly a great writer, but his strength lies in creating original concepts – not amazing stories.
It’s fairly disappointing too, because Ex Machina starts as one of the most intriguing and original science-fiction concepts of the last decade. The relationships between these three main characters bring a fresh perspective to the genre – and it’s captivating to watch them interact.
The final scenes of this film feel completely rushed, with everyone involved doing things that are completely out of character. It actually feels as though it was frantically re-written towards the end of shooting – mostly so they could justify having Vikander walk around naked for a bit longer.
I’m not usually one to complain about nudity, but the drawn out shots and mirrored angles seem a tad unnecessary. They could have easily filmed her from the shoulders up in these moments for exactly the same effect.
The first half of Garland’s directorial debut is essential viewing; with a premise and visual effects that are worth the ticket price alone. Still, the confused and rushed ending will leave viewers annoyed and unsatisfied.
Do you agree with our Ex Machina review? Whether you agree, disagree or don’t really have an opinion, leave us a comment below!