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This is just the film I’ve been waiting for for months. Honestly, the year in cinema has been a disappointment. Partly because I did not see a lot. But also because there were not many films that really really sounded as I needed to see them. When reading about “Ex Machina”, I thought this might make the tide turn, and indeed it did.

Claustrophobic and cinematic, a chamber piece basically about two guys being locked up in a fancy cottage/lab where they can drink, dance and develop A.I.-powered beautiful girls. Oscar Isaac as reclusive weirdo mastermind is in the habit of manipulating his staff and androids, while Domhnall Gleeson (who now officially was in all good films of 2015, and in some others as well …) is happy to allow himself get manipulated to a certain point, because in exchange he may get a glance into truly future-changing technology. And into his own nature, preferences and abilities. And he can watch Oscar Isaac dance.

The plot can maybe be described as the part in Blade Runner that we did not get to see, where Androids got developed and the engineers tried to figure out the glitches and develop some testing devices. Some of them wondered whether those droids shouldn’t be more sexy, and they clearly got it their way, with a line of superbly beautiful samples getting assembled (Alicia Vikander as key counterpart Ava, the actress apparently known from Royal Affair, but I cannot remember. And Sonoya Mizuno as Asian-style housemaid with benefits Kyoko).

The atmosphere is cold, with splendid scifi decorations, sometimes reminiscent of Andromeda Strain labs, around the house, but countered with the beautiful setting of the facility, surrounded by woods, mountains, waterfalls. The plot is tense, moving towards an unavoidable showdown, and coming up with the odd surprise. The finale is well played out, with the final scenes not quite spectacular, but spectacular in their simplicity and “correctness”.

It is the power play between Isaac’s Nathan Bateman and Gleeson’s Caleb Smith what makes the film an excellent piece of cool thriller. Those two actors, and writer / director Alex Garland, have reached a peak of their skills, you would not believe this is Garland’s feature debut – but he is clever and experienced enough of a writer to know when to confine a scene to the power of words and acting. Splendid cinema!

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