Ex Machina movie full length review - Did just about enough to hold my interest, but it lost its way in the latter stages and the ending is also somewhat puzzling
Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson)is a young computer programmer who wins a competition that grants him the opportunity to spend a week at a research laboratory that is run by his employer Nathan (Oscar Isaac).
Caleb is sent over to spend 7 days at the research lab and his aim is to interact with the first human AI Ava (Alicia Vikander) who has been created by Nathan. However, as time passes Caleb realises that things aren't all that they seem at the lab and he starts to wonder if Nathan is hiding a dark secret?
In some ways this film sets it stall out very early on by showing Nathan knocking seven bells out of a punch bag only then to announce that he's suffering from a really bad hangover; in what world can anyone possibly have that much energy the morning after the night before? If I have a skinful the night before I can barely get out of bed let alone do a full 'Rocky' style training montage. However, this is really only the tip of the iceberg....
Aside from this minor issue at the start, the film does become quite interesting and the various interactions and dialogue that are shared between Caleb and Ava are quite involving and come close to being moving - the scene where Ava gets dressed up for Caleb when they're discussing their date was quite nice and I assume that was part of her attempt at trying to feel normal.
Unfortunately, this film is only mildly interesting as a concept and whatever intrigue it built up in the first half quickly evaporated in the second half. Let's look at some of the problems....
For a start there's Nathan's character; he's a drunk, but why portray him as a drunk?... it would have been fine if the writers would have made him entertaining or insightful as a drunk, but he wasn't and if we're honest his drunkenness only really existed as a plot device to set up the final act (which I'll come to later). However, his drunkenness brings about further problems.... OK think about it... Nathan's drunken behaviour lead to his Key Card being stolen meaning that Caleb discovered his secret. If you've got a drink problem why would you invite someone over and risk them discovering your secret? Remember people are more truthful when they're drunk so even if Caleb hadn't have got Nathan's Key Card it's probably fair to assume that Nathan would have confessed his secret any way after one too many drinks.
Further problems develop in the final third when the writers decide to throw in far too many twists; the initial twist was good whereby we're lead to believe that Nathan has the upper hand by overhearing Caleb and Ava's escape plan (I thought at this point 'Oh Nathan's drunkenness wasn't a plot device after all), but no then we learn that Caleb re-arranged it so that all the doors would open when the power went off (whilst Nathan was drunk the night before) meaning that Nathan's drunkenness was a plot device which is what I originally thought. Great!! It's a classic case of a film over-thinking itself and trying to be too clever.
Then we come to the end and this really is make or break; initially I found it puzzling that Ava would leave Caleb behind; the only explanation that I have for this is that Ava was playing Caleb all the time and merely used him as a means to escape - seems a bit harsh when it was Caleb that made it possible for her to escape, but perhaps she isn't really capable of empathy or emotion as she is just a machine. It left me with something to think about at the end, but sadly I was more pre-occupied thinking about how convoluted the film became prior to the rather open ended finale.
Aside from an interesting start was there anything else good about it? Definitely - Oscar Isaac was great and despite the fact that I didn't like his character I think he's a great actor. Gleeson was OK and Vikander again was OK, but wasn't given much to work with. However, her final scenes are memorable to say the least and may I just say 'WOW'! How gorgeous is she???
Despite the faint praise, this film never really worked for me; the first half was mildly engaging and interesting, but never bowled me over. However, the second half was much more dumb and illogical, but as mentioned Vikander is definitely the one that you'll remember here.