“Ex Machina” review: “Under the Skin”

On the positive side, Oscar Isaac gives a very charismatic, sometimes sinister, performance and he is a joy to watch from start to finish. Also, while not having any lines, Soyona Mizuno gives a memorably striking performance, perhaps even upstaging Alicia Vikander!
“Ex_Machina” is clearly a very stylish movie and the design of Ava is laudable. The locations are beautiful and the design of Nathan’s retreat is absolutely gorgeous to look at. It is isolated and adds enormously to the atmosphere of the film.
The film succeeds in creating an atmosphere of paranoia and tension; we are indeed left wondering which characters can be trusted. Certain scenes are great; the dance scene in particular is wonderful, definitely a highlight!
The music/sound is also fantastic and it definitely contributes to the menacing, uncertain atmosphere. The sound effects of Ava’s “internal workings” were expertly done and it is indeed noteworthy.
There has been some negative reaction to the sexual element of the film and that certain scenes involving the “sexualisation” of the A.I.s is uncomfortable to watch, but I believe that those scenes fit in perfectly and there is a definite logic to it. The scene at the end where Ava “changes” is reminiscent of a similar scene in “Under the Skin”; that too gives an “alien” view on the female form.

However, I don’t think that “Ex_Machina” is perfect. I will freely admit that the film has an excellent beginning and an excellent end, but it drags somewhat in the middle and some parts definitely seem repetitive. Overall, I don’t think that it goes anywhere in particular and I could not shake the feeling that the message of this film has been tried and tested in other films/TV shows, such as “Blade Runner”, “Battlestar Galactica” and of course, “A.I.” In addition to this, there are certain points when the film falls into cliche.
I think that Alicia Vikander’s performance has been somewhat overpraised as well; granted, she does have a graceful, ballerina-like quality (it is apparent that she has an extensive dance background) but I personally wasn’t exactly overwhelmed by her performance. In addition to this, I do not believe that there was sufficient chemistry between her and Domhnall Gleeson; I could not understand why he was attracted to her in the way that he was.

It is clear that Ava is at the centre of this story and that Caleb’s attraction to her, his “seduction”, is pivotal to the impact of the film; he is seduced and through him, the audience is meant to be seduced as well. I think that if you are drawn into Vikander’s performance, then the film will indeed be effective. I personally though was not fully convinced by her portrayal of Ava, therefore I was not “seduced” and I guess this is why I did not enjoy the film as much as others have.

In conclusion, this is a very interesting, stylish film that definitely has something to say and is worth watching, though the middle section loses a great deal of momentum and certain parts are repetitive and cliched.

3 stars.

N.B. I spent so long after this film struggling to decide whether it was worth 4 Stars or not. To its credit, it is probably a 4 star film but I felt that it just missed out by knat’s wing.

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