EX MACHINA

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It may be a little mechanical in parts but it’s certainly not one for the scrap heap.

A ha . . . Anyway. Finally a film that didn’t make me question the purpose of my cinema pass.

A brooding, atmospheric and suspenseful thriller that ponders the existence of artificial intelligence and the very essence of life.

So what’s it all about? A young programmer (Domnhall Gleeson) is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I. (Alicia Vikander)

Brought to you by the guy who penned 28 Days Later and Sunshine. Now to me, I instantly had high hopes. I loved both. To some, there may be doubts.

The premise is hardly original but it’s take is certainly a breath of fresh air.

It does sound a little pretentious. And in parts it can be but it’s all helped by an original script and a small (No seriously. Four actors) but talented up and coming cast.

Domnhall Gleeson has been on the radar for some time featuring in such hits as About Time and Unbroken. He proves once again why he is one to watch. He plays the geeky programmer with aplomb and delivers his lines with an impeccable accent.

What I loved about the opening was how quick cut it was. It didn’t mess around or linger unnecessarily. Just straight to business. It set the tone, the pace and got the story going. Main character. Situation. Bang, bang, bang.

The cinematography by Rob Hardy was outstanding. Especially with the breathtaking panoramic landscape shots as Gleeson’s Caleb descends upon the Jurassic Park-esque compound of the reclusive genius Nathan (Isaac).

Oscar Isaac was brilliant as the eccentric inventor. A scene stealer at every chance. A chameleon with a tough poker face. Isaac is certainly banging on the door with his performances; Inside Llewyn Davis, Two Faces of January and A Most Violent Year.

As soon as “Day One” flashed across the screen, the game begins. A suspenseful, haunting voyeuristic journey into madness.

When Caleb is first introduced to Ava (Alicia Vikander), it makes for slow burning but engaging viewing. The pair sharing pleasantries and sussing each other out. There is great chemistry between Gleeson and Alicia Vikander.

She will certainly be one whose face you will have to get used to. Appearing in several future releases and one current (Testament of Youth); Seventh Son, Son of a Gun, Man from UNCLE.

However, if her performances are anything like this then I won’t be complaining. And no! That is not because she is a naked Swedish robot who has stolen my heart (What?)

The tension begins to bubble as the days count down. Strange things happen around the enormous techno compound. Unexplained power cuts that automatically lock every room. CCTV footage on every TV channel of Ava.

An air of unease and suspicion shrouds the house (and the film). The paranoia beginning to rear its ugly head.

Loyalties soon divided, perceptions blurred. The eccentric Nathan watching the couple’s conversation under a microscope. Ava desperate to escape. Warning Caleb not to trust Nathan.

This certainly kept my attention for the majority of the film as I tried to suss out what was really going on here.

The debates between Caleb and Ava made interesting points and certainly pondered the question of what is real? Can a robot feel? Judge what is right and wrong. Their chemistry igniting more and more.

The only issue is that with all the conversations, the slow burning pace and the beautiful landscapes, it does go on a little bit.

I could feel myself kind of wanting Day 7 (it occurs over a week) to reach it’s finale a little quicker.

It’s almost Kubrickian. The long sweeping shots, the hallways. God, the endless hallways. No creepy twins in this one. Only a sultry Japanese robot servant named Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno). Alluring one moment, unsettling the next.

Garland even goes for a bizarre encounter involving a choreographed disco routine that really showed Nathan’s eccentricity (and that Isaac can dance). He also delivered the best retort I’ve heard in some time.

An angry Caleb storms in and asks why Nathan tore up something. His response? “I’m going to tear up the dance floor, dude.” Brilliant.

The finale was a little predictable but how it come about still surprised me and left me nodding my head in approval. That can’t be said for a lot of films these days.

I don’t want to divulge too much as I would like you to give this a gander.

The special effects were very good. The detail on Ava and Kyoto was remarkable. No over-indulgence on the CGI which made them look a lot less cartoony and more realistic.

I mean that could be down to the fact this had a much smaller budget but always a plus in my book in this day and age of relentless, OTT animation.

It’s certainly a dark broody affair. If you’re expecting fast action and bang for your buck with sexy robots, then watch I, Robot or Transformers but if you want a little bit of philosophical sci-fi then give it a go.

It’s not perfect. A little long at the tooth but engaging enough.

A step in the right direction.

3.5 (just)/5

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ENDLESS LOVE REVIEW

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A story we’ve seen done endless times before but surprisingly enough with a light touch and a good cast, quite watchable. Not the worst love story going, but not the best. If you love all that predictable guff, give it a go. The spiel is nothing new. Privileged, if isolated, high school loner  Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) falls in love with the charismatic rogue mechanic/car valet David Elliott (Alex Pettyfer), against her controlling father’s (Bruce Greenwood) wishes. SHOCK!  What follows is a predictable luvvy duvvy affair that occurs over the summer as the pair fight against their parents and the paths that lay before them.

There is great chemistry between the two leads; the beautiful (if a little skinny) Wilde (who featured in the shambolic Carrie remake and St Trinians franchise) and (I’m sure the ladies will say beautiful) Pettyfer (I Am Number Four/Beastly/Magic Mike). They make two likeable characters, even if you worry they’re going to choke on all the cheese they’re guzzling. I was surprised to see that the two leads were British. Their accents were spot on. It was also interesting to see the number of British actors popping up in this film; Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck) and Emma Rigby?! The girl has gone far from her Hollyoaks days, featuring in all sorts now (The less we say the better Ridley Scott disaster The Counsellor and the US TV series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland). Was it just me or did she have her lips pumped? I digress.

It’s all very easygoing and at times hammy with the OTT speeches of (truth, freedom and above all things . . . ) love but the cast make something that should make you cringe watchable and at times engaging. The awkward glances and exchanges blossom into a summery romance with the usual check list; riding on bicycles together, lying in the field blowing daisies, check, check. Ice cold bitchy girl jealous of loved up couple and intent on tearing them apart in the form of the alluring, if lipped up Rigby. Check. Well, kind of. She doesn’t really kick off until late on. More could have been made of her character. Dayo Okeniyi plays David’s best friend/comic relief Mace (not the spray) very well which splits them the luvvy duvvyness. Richardson and Robert “T-1000” Patrick play their parts well, even if they’re a little too soft and supportive for my liking.

The real star for me is the underrated Bruce Greenwood (the Star Trek reboot franchise/I, Robot) as Mr. Hugh Butterfield. The friction and tension between him and David makes up for all the cheesy romance stuff. He works well with Pettyfer and shows why he should be in more films. His presence, his expressions makes his encounters very watchable and makes for a fiery finale as he fears his influence over his family is fading. There was one unexpected moment and it gets a little more interesting when David’s checkered past is revealed but because of the tone of the film, it’s not as bad or as sinister as you think or could have been. It gets OTT, cheesy, but it’s easygoing, watchable and if you like romance and dramas with cheesy predictable guff, then give it a go. Not as bad as I prepared myself for nor as good but it missed out on a treat releasing this during the summer. More a summery film if anything with the well-shot sun lit locations and bright soundtrack. Could have gone a little darker and been stronger for it 2.5/5

Currently ranks #88 out of 145.

PLEASE NOTE: You might have gathered I’m not a romancey movie guy. Apologies for my terminology. I did my best 😉