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Ex Machina

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭   Read critic reviews

United Kingdom

2015

Rated R • 1h 48m

Director Alex Garland

Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno

Genre Drama, Science Fiction

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Caleb, a coder at the world's largest internet company, wins a contest to spend a week with the CEO. When he arrives, Caleb finds out the nature of this trip isn't social, but that he has been brought there to act as the human component in a Turing test evaluating a first-of-its-kind feat of Artificial Intelligence.

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WHAT ARE PEOPLE SAYING?

Meagen Tajalle Profile picture for Meagen Tajalle

Screenwriter Alex Garland is right at home in his directorial debut set in the near future, and this film sets the tone, and the bar, for Annihilation and Devs. Each scene balances a deceptively simple dramatic dynamic as the protagonist's goals are clear and obstacles mount, but Garland situates the film's dramatic question within a web of complex ethical and existential questions. It's a delight to watch such continuity of vision from a novelist turned screenwriter who was clearly born to direct.

Billy Donoso Profile picture for Billy Donoso

Garland's decision to shorten the title from the original Latin phrase "Deus ex Machina," or "God from the machine," should already give you an idea of the philosophical elements at play in this film. 'Ex Machina' is a visually striking, utterly discomforting, modern fusion of Kubrick's technology in "2001: A Space Odyssey" with Shakespeare's paternalism in "The Tempest." Garland makes it clear that he is not interested in explaining the clockwork of A.I, but rather the ethical dilemmas of A.I. If you allow this artistic license, then what you have is a phenomenally tense game of cat-and-mouse that reveals some ugly truths about humanity along the way. Garland is cynical not only in his prognosis for humanity, but in his heavily referential retrospective of humanity. If you are not so open to Garland's artistic license, however, I think '2001' and 'Her' are both a tier above in bridging the gap between film portrayals of A.I. as the Terminator and A.I. as Siri. Either way, 'Ex Machina' is a masterwork in cinematic and literary genius that I highly, highly recommend watching and mulling over when life as it is seems tough.

Kelsey Thomas Profile picture for Kelsey Thomas

A psychological thriller with sci-fi elements and an ethical dilemma at the center? Sign me up. An exploration of men, the machines they create, and the consequences of that creation that holds your attention from beginning to end.

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WHAT ARE CRITICS SAYING?

80

CineVue by

Ex Machina exposes the insecurity of the male ego by showing his lust for creation as simply another strand in the patriarchal power game. The film's trajectory forms a thrilling, exciting corrective.
80

Empire by Dan Jolin

Stylish, elegant, tense, cerebral, satirical and creepy. Garland’s directorial debut is his best work yet, while Vikander’s bold performance will short your circuits.
80

Variety by Guy Lodge

Ex Machina turns out to be far wittier and more sensual than its coolly unblemished exterior implies; it’s a trick that mirrors Ava’s own apparent Turing-test-defying evolution.
100

The Playlist by Oliver Lyttelton

The picture is a triumph: it's arguably Garland’s tightest and most fascinating screenplay to date, brought to life with meticulous filmmaking and sensational performances. It's the first great film of 2015.
60

The Hollywood Reporter by Stephen Dalton

The story ends in a muddled rush, leaving many unanswered questions. Like a newly launched high-end smartphone, Ex Machina looks cool and sleek, but ultimately proves flimsy and underpowered. Still, for dystopian future-shock fans who can look beyond its basic design flaws, Garland’s feature debut functions just fine as superior pulp sci-fi.
60

Time Out London by Trevor Johnston

Vikander’s spellbinding, not-quite-human presence (her synthetic skin is silky yet creepy) keeps us watching. But an only-too-obvious ‘twist’ and some clunky plotting...drain much of the credibility from a story which promised so much.

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