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With: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander, Sonoya Mizuno
Written by: Alex Garland
Directed by: Alex Garland
MPAA Rating: R for graphic nudity, language, sexual references and some violence
Running Time: 108
Date: 04/10/2015

Ex Machina (2015)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Ms. Roboto

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Author (The Beach) and screenwriter (28 Days Later, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go, and Dredd) Alex Garland makes his directorial debut with Ex Machina. Perhaps not surprisingly, it's an atmospheric sci-fi movie, but more surprising is that it surpasses everything else in his filmography. Every aspect is expertly constructed. It's bursting with ideas, theories, and moral questions about the concept of artificial intelligence, and leaves these open to interpretation by a smart audience.

A coder at a global search engine, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), wins a contest and is invited to spend a week with the company's rich, reclusive, genius boss Nathan (Oscar Isaac). The facility is ultra-modern glass and steel, but located in a beautiful, secluded spot in the mountains, surrounded by greenery. There, Nathan asks Caleb to help him test his new A.I. (artificial intelligence) system, a beautiful girl robot called Ava (Alicia Vikander). Caleb asks her questions to determine just how "real" she seems, but in a few private moments, Ava warns Caleb not to trust his host. Finding himself increasingly drawn to her, Caleb begins to formulate an escape plot. But there's more to this setup than meets the eye.

The movie's overall design is brilliant, using the spacious frame to juxtapose nature and science, chaos and order. The creepy, futuristic music score by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury rings true emotionally. The visual effects around the Ava character are seamless, and the human characters are believable and fascinating, with strong performances by everyone involved. It achieves that rare combination of eliciting both strong thoughts and feelings, and it deserves to be known as a sci-fi classic.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray is an excellent way to show off your system (especially the audio). No commentary track from director Garland, but the disc does come with a 40-minute featurette discussing the film, the 60-minute Q&A session from SXSW, and several short behind-the-scenes featurettes.

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