Ex Maquina (2014) – Alex Garland (Friday’s Finest)

The warnings about AI (Artifical Intelligence) from the likes of Elon Musk (see this clip) and Sam Harris are in some respect pretext of what we see eventuate in today’s featured movie Ex Maquina. Apart from Sci – Fi exemplars 2001 A Space Odyssey and Her, Ex Maquina demonstrates with jolting efficiency just how easy it would be for AI to supersede the human species. To quote Nathan, the inventor of an intelligent humanoid robot – Ava:

Nathan: ‘One day the AIs are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa. An upright ape living in dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction‘.

Ex Maquina was made on a budget of $15 million; the film grossed $36 million worldwide, and received largely positive reviews. Mirroring the subject matter; this film is just so intelligently crafted and entirely believable in this day and age. To me, it’s difficult not this think that something resembling this plot hasn’t already been played-out or in development behind-the-scenes. Director Alex Garland also described the future presented in the film as “ten minutes from now” meaning, “If somebody like Google or Apple announced tomorrow that they had made Ava, we would all be surprised, but we wouldn’t be that surprised.

IMDB Storyline:
Caleb, a 26 year old programmer at the world’s largest internet company, wins a competition to spend a week at a private mountain retreat belonging to Nathan, the reclusive CEO of the company. But when Caleb arrives at the remote location he finds that he will have to participate in a strange and fascinating experiment in which he must interact with the world’s first true artificial intelligence, housed in the body of a beautiful robot girl.

The script is so tight here and the performances are nuanced and cinematography and production-design sublime. The interiors are a work of art, but I especially liked the outdoor scenes (waterfall, forest and mountains filmed entirely in Norway). I don’t like seeing audiences dumbed-down in movies to secure big Hollywood mulla, but Ex Maquina presents itself like the audience know a thing of the topic. It was recognised as one of the best independent films of the year and awarded the Academy Award for best visual effects. Regarding that aspect: Ava’s robot body was achieved using a detailed costume, a full bodysuit made from polyurethane with metal powder poured onto it to create the mesh. There were lines on the costume to make it easier for VFX company DNeg to digitally remove parts of the costume in post production

The foundation for Ex Machina was laid when director Garland was 11 or 12 years old, after he had done some basic coding and experimentation on a computer his parents had bought him and which he sometimes felt had a mind of its own. His later ideas came from years of discussions he had been having with a friend with an expertise in neuroscience, who claimed machines could never become sentient.

Below is one of my favourite dialogues; including Nathan’s quote above at 1:50, but contains spoilers.

1. Ex Machina – IMDB
2. Ex Machina – Wikipedia

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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18 comments on “Ex Maquina (2014) – Alex Garland (Friday’s Finest)
  1. Great extract Matthew!

  2. Reely Bernie says:

    Yes, there was something about a “beautiful” claustrophobia regarding the interior shots. It was only a matter of time that those hallways permanently encased the protagonist. God, I hope I’m old enough to miss cyborg takeover. I really liked Oscar Isaac’s performance too – kind detestable in a likeable way. The scene where he ends up not drinking throws the audience off. He knows more than we thought!!!

    • I felt the same about your insightful description of Oscar ‘s character. Well, we think all along that Oscar’s human subject is preselected based on his intelligence and acumen, but he’s actually a SNAG and put there to see if he can be coaxed by Ava. It’ s a great twist.

      • Reely Bernie says:

        It really is a well executed twist. I like Oscar a lot. He was perfectly cast in Dune. I’m not sure if you were a fan of that one, but I really enjoyed it.

      • That twist; reflecting the movie is so subtle and nuanced but ironically hits the audience like a thunderbolt.
        I have to see Dune again. We watched it all in the cinema late at night after a long day of Tennis and it had ‘voiceover’ in Spanish (so at least the kids could understand it).
        I was a bit lost seeing it, but loved the visuals. I’ll wait till it comes out on DVD to get me a copy, if it hasn’t already come out.

      • Reely Bernie says:

        Good call! It’s worth another shot. I’m seeing it again in August at the Red Rocks Amphitheater! Can’t wait!

      • Nice, I hope you enjoy. Had you read the book /s before coming into it?

      • Reely Bernie says:

        No, just saw the David Lynch version which put me to sleep. I actually thought this reboot was easier to follow, included well staged action and effects, and Hans Zimmer’s Oscar-winning score was mesmerizing…

      • Yeh, the score was awesome. The visuals were amazing. It reminded me of seeing Bladerunner 2049 and latest Mad Max in cinema. It was just hard to get immersed because of our circumstances. It wasn’t a kids movie lol

      • Reely Bernie says:

        No, not a kids movie. Even my teenaged students didn’t like it. My millennial coworkers loved it, and it’s the only thing I have in common with them.

      • I can understand how your teenage students didn’t like it. It’s very Bladerunner -ish in its approach. It’s slow and builds a world. Why is the movie the only thing you have in common with your co-workers?

      • Reely Bernie says:

        It’s a jest. Millennials seems to like everything. On the Letterboxd app I highly recommend, I think I’m the only Gen-Xer. They’re fine. But, their movie reviews mount to: “I liked it. Made me want to eat a nice steak.” That was for Boiling Point. Ugh.

      • I had to look up Boiling Point. I don’t envy you in that pursuit to appease them lol

      • Reely Bernie says:


        Not sure if that will open for you. Great little movie 🙂

        Peace to you, OB!

        Do we say Happy Winter to you?

      • I highly doubt it will open for me, but I did search Boiling Point and found it. Peace to you too Reely.
        We are in a tropical climate here close to the Equator so it is Wet or Dry season and it’s Wet man!
        You’re a good egg. I always enjoy our conversations. Cheers.

  3. Hey Reely, I just got back from seeing Top Gun: Maverick. Sometimes when I’ve read so many positive reviews of a movie I can eventually feel a bit let down if it doesn’t meet my expectations. That was certainly not the case with this movie. I was enthralled and I’m looking forward to going back to see it again soon with the kiddies. The special effects, sound and acting were really good. There were some cliche lines, but that didn’t detract much from the movie. This movie was all class and it’s normally of a genre I detest seeing.

  4. […] Ex Maquina (2014) – Alex Garland (Friday’s Finest) […]

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