'Ex Machina' (2014) - Film Review

Updated on June 15, 2020
Running Time
108 minutes
Alex Garland
Alex Garland

“One day the AIs are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa”


Caleb Smith is a programmer that wins a contest, giving him the opportunity to be part of the greatest scientific experiment of all time. He must interact with and assess artificial intelligence in the form of a female robot.

  • Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) is a computer wiz who is granted the opportunity of a lifetime as he gets to be part of an experiment that could change the world. However, when he encounters Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the creator of this female robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander), he is sceptical of Nathan's motives and forms a close bond with Ava.
  • Nathan is the creator of the world's biggest search engine and architect of Ava. He has a real problem with alcohol but he has a brilliant mind that is constantly on the clock. He seems friendly enough, but all is not what it seems as he is always the smartest man in the room.
  • The movie follows Caleb as he takes part in the tests that Nathan monitors as they try understand and interpret Ava's thoughts.

Positives of 'Ex Machina'

Ex Machina is a superbly directed and meticulous movie that will constantly keep you guessing. As an audience member, I consistently found myself trying to figure out which angle each character was coming from, as you never know their motives. The movie is filled with tension and a style that is aesthetically gorgeous. This is a real cerebral science fiction movie that tries to access the human psyche.

  • Thought provoking - This film is a real thinker, but on many different levels. The story itself always keeps the audience guessing as there are an abundance of twists and turns. The movie gives you enough information to tell a complete story, but there are loose ends which are open to interpretation. What you choose to take note of, or who you root for during the film, may be different to others and there are no clear answers. There are genuine surprises that you do not see coming throughout the film and make complete sense when you get to the end. It also has some alluring messages about humanity and its relationship with technology. This will possibly force some audience members to see life in a different way.
  • Characters - All of the characters in this movie aid the storytelling as Garland never reveals their true intentions. It adds a tension to the film which is really hard to pull off. All the characters are nearly perfect. From the way that they speak, to their clothing, to their personalities, it's all carefully chosen to convey different aspects and themes within the movie.
  • Manipulation of Audience - This is such a hard technique to perform in a film, but Ex Machina is successful in its performance. All the characters are chosen for a distinct goal. In different parts of the movie, you think you who know the protagonist is, but then it changes and the audience never knows who they are supposed to be supporting.
  • Cinematography - The movie is beautifully shot and very stylish. It has an alluring vision to it, which represents the secludedness of complex where Nathan lives. It is depicted as a lonely place and some of the rooms have a real claustrophobic feel to them. Especially Ava's room, which for me, made me feel sorry for her and represented how she had nowhere to go. She is depicted almost like a pet.

“Isn't it strange, to create something that hates you?”

Performances of Note

The acting is arguably the strongest aspect of this movie. They all clearly have great chemistry and a lot is riding on their performances as there are so few characters. However, they are all fantastic and help to build this awesome movie.

  • Domhnall Gleeson (Caleb Smith) - He plays this role superbly as Caleb Smith's character arc is never known to the audience. All of the actors do a brilliant job of never letting their true intentions be known. He compels the audience into thinking his character can only act a certain way, but he definitely surprises you. His persona will change dependent on who he is talking too and he forces you to worry about what actions he will take, creating real tension.
  • Oscar Isaac (Nathan) - Oscar Isaac’s performance is amazing, because his character has an abundance of interesting character traits. He is a really smart guy, but he is also a drunk who likes to work out; these are three very different attributes. How he manages to tie all of these traits together is a testament to his acting ability. He is also very mysterious and has an arrogance, which forces him to the think he always has the upper hand. He believes he is more intelligent than anyone and anything.
  • Alicia Vikander (Ava) - This is my favourite performance of this movie as Vikander adds something different to her robot character that I haven't seen before. It’s a very physical role and her mannerisms are that of a robot, but it's never over the top. Her performance is just on that brink of natural and unnatural, which adds a great sense of realism to the film and Ava as a character. Brilliant

“If you've created a conscious machine, it's not the history of man. That's the history of gods"

Negatives of 'Ex Machina'

There are a couple of small negatives that I had with Ex Machina. But they are minor compared to my love for this film and do not dent my opinion too much.

  • Pacing - This is a slow built movie and that can be an issue for some people. I realise that this film will not be for everyone and I happened to enjoy the slow build up. But it does take some time for things to get into motion and I can see this being an issue for some people. However, it really is a movie you want to stick with!
  • Cliché - Some of the events of the movie could be looked at as quite cliché because technology, and its relationship with humanity, is a subject that has been looked at before. Personally, I did not see the twists and turns in the movie coming. I was really surprised by what happened. But perhaps people with more intuitive skills than my own may be able to work out what will happen. Regardless, anybody who enjoys sci-fi will enjoy watching this movie.

“Impulse. Response. Fluid. Imperfect. Patterned. Chaotic.”


This is such a sublime movie and I want to get as many people as possible to watch it. The camera work is beautiful and the storytelling is so engaging. The way it manipulates the audience and forces you to think is a really cool aspect of the movie. Cerebral is the best way to describe this film, as its going to make you constantly questions your thoughts. It had me talking about it days after the screening and thinking of different themes the movie was trying to express. I found myself looking through different characters point of views, and my opinions of the characters is still consistently changing. Fantastic movie!

5 out of 5

5 stars for 'Ex Machina'


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