Early reviews from The Telegraph and Indiewire out of London were strong, and Alex Garland has a strong track record as a screenwriter (“28 Days Later,” “Sunshine,” “Never Let Me Go”), so there was reason to have faith in his directorial debut, “Ex Machina.” The presence of talented up-and-comers like Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac didn’t hurt, either. Yet reviews out of SXSW are even more enthusiastic, suggesting that those disappointed by “Chappie” only need to wait a few more weeks to have the bad taste washed away.
Critics are calling “Ex Machina” a chilly, gripping sci-fi yarn and a confident debut from Garland, who takes an incredibly florid, writerly script set in a small location and manages to make it cinematic. Praise also goes to the film’s smart metaphor about patriarchal dominance of women, which involves two scientists creating humanoid Artificial Intelligence that just happens to look like Alicia Vikander. Also, Oscar Isaac disco dances in the film, which please give me my ticket now.
“Ex Machina” hits theaters April 10.
Perri Nemiroff, Collider
“Ex Machina” is a strong feature and a huge achievement in a number of ways. There’s a surprising amount of very effective humor courtesy of Isaac’s character, there’s an extremely riveting scenario at the core of the film and there’s also tons of stunning visual work to admire as well. But, for an exceptionally unique and layered character study, “Ex Machina” has a surprisingly minimal amount of humanity and that keeps the film from striking a chord on a deeper level and having a lasting effect. Read more.
Joanna Robinson, Vanity Fair
As the screenwriter for the likes of “Sunshine,” “28 Days Later,” and “Never Let Me Go,” Garland is well-versed in stories of science run amok. All the same, this is a remarkably confident first go for Garland in the director’s chair. “Ex Machina” is a writerly film with the intimate two-hander scenes and grand speeches you would expect to find in a stage play rather than a visually dazzling bit of sci-fi. But despite its tiny cast (with apologies to Kyoko, there are really only three characters), cramped, narrow hallways, and windowless rooms, “Ex Machina” never feels like a small film. Read more.
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush
Isaac, who is quickly becoming one of the most dependable and interesting actors in Hollywood, takes his stock character type — the suspicious, secretive designer — and pushes him in surprising comic directions. In less tense moments, Isaac’s Nathan is chatty and charming; when he drinks his behavior gets even more hilariously erratic, including in one show-stopping sequence where he cuts loose in a way that is as delightful as it is unexpected. Read more.
Scott Weinberg, Nerdist
If it seems sort of cruel to create something that’s smart enough to realize it’s nothing more than a disposable tool, well, that’s sort of what “Ex Machina” is about, only here the gender politics of the equation provide a fascinating counterpoint to the more well-worn “free will vs. basic programming” material. At its darkest moments, “Ex Machina” proposes that humans may actually enjoy destroying the tools we so often create in our own image, but Mr. Garland strikes a consistently astute balance between hard sci-fi, dark comedy, and trenchant social commentary. Read more.
Emily Yoshida, The Verge
I don’t think it’s an accident that the two humans are male. You could easily read this as a sly commentary on traditional blockbuster narratives: focus on the two dudes, gawk at the attractive, disposable women in the margins. It’s also no accident that Nathan has decided to give Ava an attractive female form. The scientific and hedonistic reasons for this get blurred; if Ava is really to pass the Turing test, the fastest way around human logic is sex appeal. And how better to appeal to a lonely, socially awkward young man like Caleb than by handing him a very advanced RealDoll, literally a composite of his porn search history, who he can fantasize about without having to worry about her biological humanity? Conveniently for Nathan, this also means he has a bevy of perfectly formed, speechless women at his beck and call. Read more.
— Drew Taylor (@DrewTailored) March 15, 2015
‘Ex Machina’ is very very good and Oscar Isaac is absolutely fantastic in it.
— Mike Sampson (@mjsamps) March 15, 2015
EX MACHINA just rendered CHAPPIE obsolete. #SXSW
— Matt Singer (@mattsinger) March 15, 2015
— Monica Castillo (@mcastimovies) March 15, 2015
“I’d say I’m on the robot’s side in this movie…My suspicions are with the humans.” Alex Garland on chilly, gripping, astounding EX MACHINA
— Mark Olsen (@IndieFocus) March 15, 2015
But all that aside, EX MACHINA is exceptional sci-fi and a great metaphor for how terrible the patriarchy is.
— Josh Rosenfield (@JoshRosenfield) March 15, 2015
EX MACHINA: wry, ponderous sci-fi w/ billionaire Oscar Isaac having coder Domhnall Gleeson test A.I. robot. Smart, though familiar. #SXSW
— Eric D. Snider (@EricDSnider) March 15, 2015