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Alex Garland’s “Ex Machina” Reviewed

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As Sci Fi movies go, “Ex Machina” would have made a great four person mind game play, or maybe a “Twilight Zone” edge of your seat episode, about duplicity and empathy and, of course, what it means to have consciousness. The usual unusual.

Domhnall Gleeson (Bill Weasley to you) is Caleb Smith, a computer programmer working for a Google type big company Bluebook, who wins a contest to spend the weekend with the reclusive genius Bluebook owner Oscar Isaac (LLewyn Davis to you) as Nathan Bateman.

In the middle of nowhere surrounded by nothing, Caleb soon discovers his heavy drinking, intense and aggressively dislikable host Nathan has something else in mind. With only a mute (and lovely) maid (Sonoya Mizuno) and something else, it is gonna be  a stormy week. But Caleb isn’t here for a break, or because he won an award, he is here because he is wanted to perform the Turing Test (you know, the one in “Blade Runner” to prove you are human or robot) on an Artificial Intelligence known as Ava -the stunning Alicia Vikander, created by Nathan from every piece of information on the internet.

Ava, bald and with all her wires showing, is very lovely (it’s a star making turn for Vikander though her upcoming “The Man From UNCLE” is the one that will turn the Swedish actress into movie star), flirts with Caleb who falls in love with her (yes her, she has a functioning vagina we are told).

This is the first movie by writer turned director Alex Garland (he wrote the screenplay for “Another 28 Days”) and while it is a little on the skimpy side, there is a sense of the movie being dragged out a touch, still he gets you at once and doesn’t let go for a moment. Oddly, for a writer the dialogue is a little bland, and conceptually it doesn’t quite stand up to close inspection; a sort of inverted Phillip K. Dick.

The acting is very very sharp, Alicia Vikander is tremendous, she reminds me of Jeff Bridges in “Starman”, there is something both the same and other. The four are all hidden agendas and playfulness that isn’t really playful at all. And in this remote supersonic prison cum laboratory the most deadly thing is not always who it appears to be.

Grade: B+

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