By Sunny Zaman
With the rapport and overhang of Danny Boyle’s directorial vision over some of his successful scripts (Sunshine, 28 Days Later), Alex Garland debuts the first feature he’s both written and directed.
On impulse, I went to see Ex Machina two weeks ago at a Regal Cinema in Manhattan (where even chains screen indie pics), just on the basis of being a fan of its distribution company (A24 Films: Spring Breakers, Under the Skin, The Rover, Obvious Child, A Most Violent Year, most recently, While We’re Young).
The film was released in January in the UK via Universal Pictures, then screened at SXSW just a few weeks ago, and has ultimately secured domestic release by A24, screening in Los Angeles, New York City, and other small independent theatres, like our very own Little.
Unbeknownst to me, Garland himself was at my screening, and did a hugely enlightening Q&A with a full house right after (it was opening weekend in the US). Oh, the pleasant surprises a $15 admission can offer in the city.
Exploring the concept of the Turing Test (“a test for intelligence in a computer, requiring that a human being should be unable to distinguish the machine from another human being by using the replies to questions put to both”), Ex Machina doesn't exploit the concept of artificial intelligence as much as it does investigate where human traits like consciousness and gender, or generally animal traits like want and lust, begin, end, and ultimately exist.
Ex Machina travels a concise narrative arch that punctuates itself with thoughtful musings and knock-out performances by its trifecta lead cast (Oscar Issac, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander), and is grounded in ideas that are entirely accessible in today's swiftly transitioning technological landscape , with these philosophical quandaries plausible in the very near-future.
How really do you discern between the human experience and an artificial experience generated in a lab? What is artificial anyway?
Ex Machina stars Oscar Issac (Inside Llewyn Davis, A Most Violent Year), Domhnall Gleeson (Frank, About Time, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2), and Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina) and is playing now at The Little.
Sunny Zaman is a freelance writer, musician, and film PA. He has a BA in Film from CUNY Brooklyn College and currently lives in Brooklyn. sunnyischer.tumblr.com