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The Best of 2015: Ex-Machina: Alex Garland’s Fantastic Directorial Debut

August 14, 2015

ex-machina movie poster

Ex Machina is the rare “intelligent” film that is actually intelligent. It is a fantastic science fiction film that works wonders with a $15 million budget (AKA Avengers craft service budget) and is performed to perfection. Director and writer Alex Garland (The Beach, Sunshine, 28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go, Dredd) continues his hot streak and proves he is one of the best in the business.

Ex Machina revolves around two humans, one very special A.I. creation and a whole lot of booze. It is a character heavy film that feels like a chess match played by three people. It is rare that we get these kind of movies and I love that it is getting Academy Award rumbles. The reason I am writing about it now is I want to get Ex-Machina in front of more eyes and spotlight Alex Garland.

Director/Writer Alex Garland is very good at making material fresh. He and Danny Boyle rocked the zombie world with 28 Days Later and his screenplay for Dredd was pure white-collar violence. He understands that characters need to be likable/relatable/believable and more often than not his films revolve around a journey into violence. There are Colonel Kurtz types characters, bonkers imagery and out of left field final acts throughout Garland’s scripts. Most importantly, Garland films always feature iconic imagery that become burnt in your memory.

 

sunshine

I love what Garland had to say about writing in an AV Club article.

I really, really love cinema. And I personally think that one of the downsides of auteur theory has been too much emphasis put on the deification of directing, and some of the other roles have been dismissed—and sometimes, within the production, almost treated with contempt. Now, in particular, because I perceive myself as a writer, I notice that about writing. It’s like a math teacher who thinks math is the most important subject in school or something.

I think film has lost track of how important screenplays are. And the consequence of that is really amazing writers in the visual art form have moved to television. And since The Sopranos—this is a general truth, it’s not a perfect truth—broadly speaking, the best adult drama has been on television. And we used to get Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and Apocalypse Now and The Godfather and you just keep going. The parallax would be all these interesting adult dramas that could be also quite mainstream. And they exist now, but they’re Breaking Bad and The Wire and Mad Men and even Game Of Thrones or whatever. I just regret that.

When looking at Garland’s original scripts and book adaptations it is easy to see the Hollywood opposite.

  1. Sunshine – Armageddon
  2. 28 Days later – Dawn of the Dead remake
  3. Ex-Machina – I, Robot
  4. Never Let Me Go – The Island
  5. Dredd- Judge Dredd

I appreciate that there is somebody out there with the intention of bringing mature themes back to cinema. His films/scripts have gone off the rails but he has made comic book characters and attempts to reignite the sun somewhat sophisticated. His films must be an actor’s dream because they get a script that was written with care. Ex-Machina is a perfect example of great script meets A-list talent.

Ex-Machina is aided by the inclusion of Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Issac and Alicia Vikander. You will soon see Gleeson (About Time, Calvary) and Issac (Inside Llewyn Davis, A Most Violent Year) in the new Star War movies and Vikander will be in everything. It is the rare combination of three peaking actors taking solid material and making it better. I loved Issac’s bro-genius and his time alone has made him insulated and cocky. He boxes to detox himself but he drinks a lot which means he hits the heavy bag often. He can’t see anyway he could be foiled and it makes him vulnerable. When you’ve been God for so long you kinda believe it and I love how Issac underestimates his companions.

There is a hynoptic vibe to Ex-Machina and I love how a film predominately about people talking has you 100% engaged. A big part of the cinematic engagement belongs to Vikander. I had never seen her in a film before so there was no familiarity. Vikander is wide-eyed yet aware and she uses every opportunity to work her end game.

Alicia Vikander Ex-Machina

Ex-Machina isn’t all pretentious talk and chess matches. It has a wicked sense of humor and humanity that has sparked copious online debates about its content. Ex-Machina should be applauded for trying something new and I totally recommend that you check it out and learn some dance moves.

Ex-Machina Dance gif

 

 

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 14, 2015 11:08 am

    Good Post!
    You write about bad movies most of the time? Glad u cld take th time out to feature this modern masterpiece instead.
    Learn some dance moves? I could have taught them these myself, man!
    If you want a really crud movie, try this:
    http://bradscribe.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/bad-sign-of-four/
    Cheers!

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