It’s always a little nerve-wracking when a film industry professional turns the focus to directing for the first time. Sometimes, this can result in the emergence of a bold new talent, such as Ben Affleck’s recent success as the man behind Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo. Other times however, the results are a total failure and embarrassment. Last year for example, top-notch cinematographer Wally Pfister made his directorial debut with the horrendous Transcendence. Ex Machina is the latest example of a prominent figure in film making their directorial debut, and coincidentally is also a high concept science-fiction film pertaining to A.I. This time, the freshman director is Alex Garland, a screenwriter best known for the Danny Boyle helmed sci-fi films 28 Days Later and Sunshine. Of all the professions that transition to a director, the screenwriter to director has always struck me as the most logical path. The technical aspects differ, but the overall goal of storytelling is the same, a fact which gave me hope Garland would be able to make a smooth transition from scribe to filmmaker.
Ex Machina is set in what I presume is a not too distant future and follows Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a young programmer for search engine company Bluebook. As the film starts, Caleb receives an email that he has one a company contest to spend one week at the estate of CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Upon arriving, Nathan informs Caleb that his estate is not merely a home, but a research facility for top secret and cutting edge technology that Nathan would like Caleb to test. This turns out to be the development of an A.I. known as Ava (Alicia Vikander), whom Caleb is to gauge the humanity of. However through his interactions with both Ava and Nathan, Caleb begins to suspect there is something more going on. Read the rest of this entry »