Ex Machina takes a while to go somewhere. The early Ava sessions are stretched out far too long. The exposition is a bit excessive. Oscar Isaac’s dialogue when he is explaining everything to Domhnall Gleeson feels like Garland is just trying to cover up areas that people might question. It comes across very awkwardly. This is nothing against Oscar Isaac, it is Alex Garland’s screenplay. While Isaac is great here, he is nowhere near being the star of the show. This goes to Alicia Vikander. She is absolutely incredible as the AI. Her performance feels so genuine here. I am not quite sold on Domhnall Gleeson yet. His performance in Frank failed in comparison to Fassbender’s performance.
After the third Ava session, I quickly became interested in the film. The first Ava session was interesting. It is decent set up that is a bit on the nose. The biggest problem with Alex Garland’s debut feature is the lack of subtly. This problem is prevalent in his other scripts as well. The second and third Ava sessions are quite bloated and needed to be condensed into one. More or less, they accomplish the same thing and with a bit of tweaking the condensed Ava session could have been something interesting instead of two scenes that nearly put me into sleep.
Another issue I had with the film were the countless plot devices. The ID card for example, was just there so the third act could come into play. I feel like Isaac’s character would have had technology better than these ID cards. He has an AI, yet he doesn’t have a better security system than these ID cards. The whole situation doesn’t ring true to Issac’s character, who is supposed to be this revolutionary inventor.
The second act is pretty solid for the most part. The Ava sessions are much more interesting. The relationship between Vikander and Gleeson becomes really good. The third act takes the film to a whole new level. It builds tension better than most horror films have from the past fifteen years. The action sequences are fantastic. The whole unraveling is fun to watch. My problem with the unraveling is that it feels very contrived. A character has an elaborate plan that feels just too good to be true. It is a huge stack of cards, that if one thing were to go differently, the whole plan would have collapsed.