Flick Chick Vique Review "ex machina: I Sing the Body Electric"

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ex machina: I Sing the Body Electric

Writer/Director Alex Garland's timing could not be better. While the artist has been obsessed over artificial intelligence for years, the release of his movie “ex machina” comes at a time when robots seemingly make headlines daily. Recently the smartest kids in the technology room have been making some pretty alarming statements about the inherent danger of mankind rushing into the world of AI. Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking have all pretty much said that it wouldn't be long before smart robots would figure out how weak and limited human beings are. Then all bets would be off.

“ex machina” goes down a very dark corridor of that ‘what if?' scenario. An enigmatic, reclusive CEO of a search engine company (Google, anyone?) holds a contest amongst his employees, with the prize being a stay at his uber cool and mysterious compound. But within minutes of the winner's arrival, he learns that the real prize is a chance to test out the CEO's newest invention: the first self-aware, sentient, artificial being. Holy Cow!

From the start there is an ominous, heavy feeling in the air. Sure the CEO, Nathan is a totally, radical, friendly ‘dude'. He practices yoga, is disheveled and is nursing a hangover. So the ‘dude' must like to party, right? How could a young guy not totally dig such an awesome rock god? And Nathan's compound? It's a perfect melding of the organic and beautiful outdoors with ultra, sleek, stylish interiors. But its austerity made me feel like it was more of an institution than a home. More of a prison than a playpen.

While the lucky winner, Caleb, is a little overwhelmed by it all, he is nonetheless excited and happy to be embarking on the once in a lifetime experience. And when he meets his test subject, Ava, he dissolves into a nervous, anxious teen on a dream date. How could he not? Ava might have a neon lit, mechanical body but she has the face and voice of an angel, the innocence and curiosity of a child but the intelligence of the universe. By looks, she is most decidedly a robot but everything else about her seems so human.

That very humanness, is the great quandary. It isn't long before Caleb is torn between what Ava says and what Nathan does. Someone is lying, someone is plotting but who or what? Soon you are immersed in a full blown thriller that is exhilarating, terrifying and incredibly cerebral. This is a thinking man's horror extravaganza with complex, believable performances, stunning effects and a plot with twists and turns that are always just out of your reach even though you are on the edge of your seat.

Though he had been kicking around quite a bit, Oscar Isaac's tour de force performance in the Coen brothers' ode to folk music, “Inside Llewelyn Davis”, finally got him the attention he deserved. But that was a terrible movie and I don't know how many people know who he is. Last year he was in “The Most Violent Year”. The movie had a lot of nominations, even from the Phoenix Film Critics Society of which yours truly is a member. I hated it. Thought it was boring. So in spite of another great performance, most still don't know who Oscar is. They will know after ‘ex machina”, I can assure you.

Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb might best be known from his appearances as Bill Weasley in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and 2, but not anymore. As the contest winner, his character goes through the most emotions and head trips. His performance is gripping and never misses a beat from sweet to smart, to-well that would be a spoiler you won't get here.

Then there is Alicia Vikander, the Swedish beauty who brings Ava to life. Though best known for 2012's “A Royal Affair”, she is basically an unknown to most audiences. Her portrayal of a robot, keenly aware of what she is, is perfect in its simplicity. Your feelings about her will evolve just like Caleb's. Slowly but most assuredly, she will draw you in until you question reality itself.

Which brings us back to the beginning and puppet master Alex Garland. The basic premise of ‘ex machina' is as old as science fiction itself, yet this story of a mad scientist is unlike any other. Man is closer to realizing a future of sentient machines than ever before. With that comes all kinds of dilemmas for anyone with ethics or the ability to imagine a future where the dream not only becomes a reality but a nightmare.

People will view and discuss this movie for decades to come. See a future classic on the big screen while you can. Then sit back and let the discussion or arguments begin.

“ex machina” wins 5 Red Vines for being delicious, head tripy sci-fi perfection

Previews of these movies were provided to me by the studios but it in no way affects my unbiased review.