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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Movie Review: Ex Machina (2015) and How Camera Angles Tell A Story

Image result for ex machina caleb and ava 
Ex Machina (2015)

Starring: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac
Directed By: Alex Garland
Written By: Alex Garland
Release Date: April 24, 2015
Rating: 5/5

Summary: A programmer is chosen to partake in an experiment that involves testing the intelligence of an A.I, who just happens to take the shape of a beautiful young woman.

My Thoughts: I'm just going to start off by saying that I do not like the sci-fi genre. Not one bit, but this movie has to be one of my favorites from 2015, if not my favorite, mainly because it surprised me so much as this tale is one that's been told time and time again, but Ex Machina twists the sci-fi genre and the A.I tale in a way that is unique. This movie is not one that relies on science or action and even though the visual effects are superb, (which is why the film won an Oscar for them) what this film really uses to tell the story is just about everything else from the soft lighting and sound to the quiet, subtle dialogue between the characters and  more importantly, while this story isn't a complex one, the topic that lies behind the story is. 

And that topic namely lies in one question and that question is: What does it mean to be a human? Ava (Alicia Vikander) is a beautiful and somewhat seductive A.I. As we only see her face, her wide eyes are the one's doing most of the acting, reflecting a range of emotions throughout the film with most of her dialogue being between her and Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), watched over by Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the rich billionaire who invited Caleb there in the first place. Ava is just this robot, she was built by Nathan and we see all these wires and things protruding from her, but as she talks, as she explores the world, we don't really see those wires anymore. We see that face, that human face and both Caleb and ourselves begin to believe that maybe she can feel something. But can she? We can never really know for sure and the movie doesn't intend to answer the question because it can't, which is why the ending is the way it is, to most people's displeasure, and that's where the issue with this movie lies for most people because they either didn't see it coming or see it as a cop out, but the movie points out the ending way before we get there.

The sessions between Ava and Caleb are a giant chunk of the movie and not only drive the point that the movie is trying to make home about humans and robots, also hinting at a lot of things involving character development, but it also calls out the ending before it actually happens. Throughout most of the scenes between Ava and Caleb during their sessions, there's this unspoken power dynamic present between them and it's not present in the dialogue, as the dialogue, like I said, is soft and simple, but there's so much more between the lines and that lies in the angles of the camera.
Image result for ex machina caleb and ava 
Ava is manipulative and calculated and here is where we get a sense of this before it's revealed in the end. When Caleb is in a position of more power than her and is telling the story, the human story of this film, notice that while she is shown to be lower than him, we still see her reflection and it's because of her calculating nature because in the scene she's seemingly passive and vulnerable, but it's all a part of her plan to manipulate him by making him fall for her, even covering her up her wires and so in order to make her seems so real, so she can ultimately betray him in the end, even though it doesn't work as we can see them on the same level with her fully dressed. But it is towards the end where we see her standing, yet again, above him, where we see now she's taken full control over him. On the other hand, however, after Caleb has fallen for her, in a lot of the shots in the film towards the end of the film, we also have Ava standing higher, looking down at Caleb and sometimes, we have it flipped flopped, mainly when Caleb is telling the story and Ava is sympathetic towards him and it's here where a conflict is presented because Ava has her own ulterior motives and while at times she has to seem passive in order to get Caleb to trust her, it at these times that Caleb is real with her and she's looking down at him with no reflection of her in sight that since it is also at this point that she is genuine as well, which was not a part of her plan. And it is here, that the ending is all played out for us before it actually happens through these "two-faced", "cat-and-mouse" camera angles.

Ex Machina's imagery and subtle, between the lines, storytelling is what made me fall in love with it. Not only that, but the film also features an awesome dance scene between Nathan and Kyoko, a character who's story the film fails to entertain us with. It's engaging and thought-provoking without dumbing down what it has to say. It's a movie I highly
recommend even to those, like myself that despise the sci-fi genre because it's one finely-crafted film. 

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