Posts Tagged ‘Ex Machina’

Metro Canada: Why the world is in love with Alicia Vikander

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 7.39.49 AMBy Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

In The Light Between Oceans, Michael Fassbender, plays a stoic World War I veteran, who falls truly, madly and deeply in love with Alicia Vikander as Isabel. It’s not uncommon, it seems all of Hollywood adores the twenty-seven-year-old Swedish actress.

The New York times praises her “the gamin bone structure, that sullen pout, those velvety fawn eyes,” and producer Lionel Wigram declared, “She’s a star. You can’t take your eyes off her on screen or in person.”

Her talent and versatility have made her so in demand it’s hard to believe that in her late teens drama school twice rejected her. According to her those dismissals were a blessing in disguise as they allowed her earlier access to “an industry that prizes youth in women.”

This weekend she takes on the romance of The Light Between Oceans as a precocious woman who asks a man she has just met to marry her. Based on an acclaimed and bestselling book by M. L. Stedman, it’s a story about choices, honour and true love that plays like a highbrow Nicolas Sparks story in period clothes. It also showcases Vikander’s range. In the last two years she has played everything from the personification of artificial intelligence to the estranged daughter of Hitler’s favourite rocket scientist.

After success in Swedish language film and television, Vikander made an impression in under seen films like the lushly beautiful Anna Karenina opposite Keira Knightley and Testament of Youth, a World War I era story of one woman’s voyage into pacifism.

It was Ex Machina, however, that made her a star. She played an automaton named Ava created by tech wiz Nathan “The Mozart of Code” Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Programmer Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) is hired to evaluate if the robot’s ability to show intelligent behaviour equal to, or undifferentiated from, that of a human being. Ex Machina is presented as sci fi, but it really is a human drama; a human drama where the main character has a fibre optic nervous system. Vikander is equal parts warmth and chilly precision as a robot who wants more than to be a machine.

Next Guy Ritchie cast her in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and if he had Frankensteined an actress for the role of Gaby in the mould of 1960s starlets, he could not have topped Vikander as a picture perfect representation of mid-century cool. She looks like she was born to wear the oversized sunglasses and Mary Quaint frocks but she’s more than just the romantic interest.

In The Danish Girl Eddie Redmayne plays the title role, transgender pioneer Lili Elbe, and while he has the showier part it is Vikander, as Elbe’s ex-wife, who won a Best Supporting Oscar for holding the screen as the film’s emotional core, a woman who valued her relationship regardless of the changes that came her way.

Most recently she starred opposite Matt Damon as CIA’s cyber ops head Heather Lee in Jason Bourne and soon we’ll see her in the thriller Submergence with James McAvoy, Eva Green’s Euphoria and in the period piece Tulip Fever with Christoph Waltz. Perhaps the biggest indication of her industry clout is that she recently announced she’d be stepping in for Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in the rebooted Tomb Raider series.

Richard’s Top Ten (Plus a few extras) Films that gave him joy in 2015!

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 11.03.59 AMAny year that gives us the eyeball bulging thrills of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the subtle yearning of “Carol” and everything in between can’t be all bad. Sure, there were some stinkers and more nostalgia than you could shake a lightsaber at, but when I think back on 2015 I’ll remember Max’s pole riders, Lili Tomlin as the world’s fieriest grandmother, “Chewie we’re home,” Leo sleeping inside a horse and “Ex Machina’s” disco dance party.



Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 4.46.47 PMThe Big Short

“The Big Short” is an infuriating movie. Not because it’s poorly made but because it is so well made. It takes years of banking bafflegab and distils it down to the essence in what may be the funniest, smartest and most maddening look at why America’s housing market crashed in 2008.

Based on Michael Lewis‘ nonfiction best-seller of the same name, the film presents a cavalcade of facts and information formed into a story about how four investment-bankers—played by Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Finn Wittrock, John Magaro—saw the financial meltdown coming when no one else did. Taking on the arrogance of Wall Street’s old boy network, they bet against the American economy and, in the process, expose an unprecedented level of financial criminality.

The movie explains that Wall Street likes to use confusing terms to make you think only they can understand what they do. “It’s like 2+2 = fish,” says one banker, expressing disbelief at the financial manipulations used by the big banks. To make the financial mumbo-jumbo sexy the McKay uses a variety of tricks, including cutting to Margot Robbie in a bubble bath explaining subprime loans in plain language. It’s a spoonful of sugar to help the expositional medicine go down. From the simple—one loan officer calls his clients “Ninjas, no income, no job.”—to the incredibly complex world of CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) “The Big Short” doesn’t shy away from tackling complex financial transactions but it never feels dry or forced. McKay is a showman, and layers the film with fourth-wall-breaking celebrity cameos and concise social commentary woven into the drama.

“The Big Short” features strong performances—Bale stretches in ways we haven’t seen from him before—but it is the film’s unflinching depiction of unbridled greed that will resonate.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 10.28.24 AMBrooklyn

“Brooklyn,” a new film starring Saoirse Ronan as an Irish girl who immigrates to New York in the 1950s, asks a simple question: Is home where the heart is or where the marriage licence is?

Written by Nick Hornby (from a novel by Colm Tóibín) “Brooklyn” is a heartfelt coming-of-age journey that skilfully avoids any trace of mawkishness or sentimentality. A sharp script and John Crowley’s no nonsense direction are in part responsible for the movie’s tone, but the film’s beating heart is Saoirse Ronan’s remarkable performance.

As one of the great faces in movies she can speak volumes with a look, and here, as a girl whose body is in New York but heart lies in Ireland, her melancholy and homesickness is so real you can reach out and touch it. Call her Little Meryl if you like, but there is no denying the power of her work.

“Brooklyn” is a movie about decisions that makes all the right decisions. Some situations may be familiar but Ronan’s exemplarily work helps us ignore the familiar tropes as she milks every bit of emotion from a profoundly touching story.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 10.26.46 AMCarol

“Carol,” a new film starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, is a love story but one painted in shades of loneliness and longing. It’s about love at first sight and how that love that may be too good to last.

Based on a 1952 Patricia Highsmith novel titled “The Price of Salt,” “Carol” is a haunting romance, elegantly directed by Todd Haynes. Blanchett and Rooney subtly play out the story, making the most of gestures and tentative looks that in most movies wouldn’t register but here convey a richness of emotion. It’s about nuance not grand gestures.

Both Blanchett and Mara do much with limited dialogue. The real performances here are happening internally and their faces and eyes convey as much as any lines of dialogue could hope to.

“Carol” is first-class filmmaking— cinematographer Ed Lachman even uses Super 16mm film stock to create the grainy feel of a 1950s period piece—with beautifully wrought, timeless performances and a love story for the ages.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 1.29.24 PMCreed

How do you breathe new life into a forty-year-old film series? If you’re Albert R. Broccoli you hire Daniel Craig, but if you’re Sylvester Stallone gracefully you pass the torch. “Creed” is the “Rocky 1.0,” the evolution of a story that began in 1976.

“Creed” satisfies on two levels. One as a new, inspiring overcoming-the-odds story while simultaneously providing a nostalgic blast. It’s not a remake—although in a way it almost feels like a remake of the entire “Rocky” series—but attempts to bring the same kind fist-in-the-air triumphant feel as Stallone’s other boxing flicks.

Is it a knock-out?

With a story ripe with underdog theatrics, the signature “Rocky” swelling trumpet score and familiar characters and situations, “Creed” clicks in the part of your brain that grew up watching the “Rocky” movies on VHS. Like Otis Redding’s’s cover of “Satisfaction”, the movie feels vaguely familiar but it also has good beat and you can dance to it, so it gets a pass.

“Creed” maybe named after Michael B. Jordan’s character and ostensibly center on the young boxer, but let’s get real, this is a “Rocky” movie and Stallone is the star. He plays Balboa as a lion in winter, an old man who has trouble climbing (let alone sprinting) the 72 stone steps leading up to the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art made iconic in the first movie. It’s a poignant, engaging and moving performance that ranks as one of Stallone’s best.

For decades on “Creed” proves the blend of boxing and underdogs is still a potent mix, made better by rich performances and Stallone’s quietly affecting work.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 1.22.20 PMEx Machina

“Ex Machina” is a high tech thriller that by and large ignores the tech to get down to the nitty gritty. Director and screenwriter Alex Garland (who previously scripted “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine”) places the story firmly in the world of artificial intelligence and then showcases the humanity (or lack thereof) of his characters, both flesh-and-blood and robotic.

With the cool austerity of Stanley Kubrick director Garland creates the antiseptic world of Bateman’s lair. Clinical and precise, it’s a stark backdrop for a sci fi story that is more concerned with ideas than special effects. It’s a “Frankenstein” story that is, as Bateman says, not interested in what people are thinking, but how people think.

Oscar Isaac once again proves to be a quiet but potent on-screen force as Bateman, always the smartest guy in the room, but one lacking the interpersonal skills to truly connect with people. Domhnall Gleeson (who will next be seen alongside Isaac in “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”) is sympathetic and determined but it is Alicia Vikander who really impresses. She’s equal parts warmth and chilly precision as a robot who wants more than to be a machine.

“Ex Machina” is being presented as sci fi, but it really is a human drama; a human drama where the main character has a fibre optic nervous system.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 12.01.47 PMInside Out

If you’ve ever looked at someone and wondered what’s going on inside their head—and who hasn’t?—the Pixar film “Inside Out” tries to provide some answers.

Loosely based on the mood swings of director Pete Docter’s 12-year-old daughter it’s an action adventure set in the subconscious of a young girl.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as an instant classic but “Inside Out” is the best argument for creating the term I’ve come across for some time.

From dazzling animation, to a script that toggles between childlike wonder and ingenious introspection “Inside Out” is glued together with a degree of emotional acumen not often found in mainstream film.

In other words, it will make you laugh, cry and think.

“Inside Out” is a film that will deepen with repeat viewings, which is probably a good thing as when it hits Blu-ray kids are going to want to watch it again and again, and for once, parents won’t mind joining in.

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 12.19.28 PMMad Max: Fury Road

It’s been thirty years since there was a new “Mad Max” movie but “Fury Road” was worth the wait. The years have not stilled director George Miller’s restless camera or his outrageous way with steampunk influenced design or character names. If Imperator Furiosa isn’t the best character name of the year, I don’t know what is. Her title, however, might as well have been Mad Maxine as she is more the focus of the story than the titular character.

Tom Hardy pulls his weight as Max. His powerful physicality mixed with a haunted look—maybe we should call him Passive Aggressive Max—and gearbox permanently shifted to survival makes him an imposing center of the film, but it is Charlize Theron who dominates.

As Furiosa she lives up to her name as a force to be reckoned with. She’s a one-armed bandit (literally) who not only provides much of the action in the film, but its heart as well.

The real star, however, is Miller. Thirty years after he last played in Mad Max’s world he revisits it with a film that doesn’t feel like a sequel or a reboot, but a fresh look at an familiar character. His off-the-wall sensibility and demented Hot Wheels style designs give the movie a look and feel that no other director could replicate

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 4.22.01 PMSpotlight

Like “All the President’s Men,” the new Michael Keaton drama is a story about newspaper reporters taking on the establishment. Instead of going after the highest office in the land, as Woodward and Bernstein did in their Watergate exposé, in “Spotlight” Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams play Boston Globe reporters delving into the Catholic Church’s cover-up of abusive priests.

“Spotlight” is set just fourteen years ago, but feels of another age. The internet has, by and large, rendered this kind of methodical reporting obsolete. The door knocking, working-the-phones investigation with months to form and write stories is now the kind of thing that exists only in the movies. We see it all here in detail and much of it is very interesting. The reporter’s investigation allows for huge loads of exposition in the form of interviews with witnesses and victims and exports and while there’s a bit too much, “Are you telling me..?” the slow and steady unveiling of details is compelling stuff.

Director and co-writer Tom McCarthy keeps it simple and straightforward, allowing the occasional “gotcha!” revelations speak for themselves. Clues and information are uncovered slowly, with a minimum of red herrings. The result is portrait of the kind of grunt work the Spotlight team used to break the story, not nearly as flashy or verbose as Aaron Sorkin’s overwritten and over sentimentalized look at news gathering, “The Newsroom.”

“Spotlight” is a refreshingly barebones movie that allows the story to provide the fireworks.

Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 10.54.44 AMStar Wars: the Force Awakens

There’s good news for Star Wars fans. The initials in director J.J. Abrams’s name definitely do not stand for Jar Jar. His take on the “Star Wars” universe does everything the much-maligned prequels did not; that is it focuses on character and adventure not treaties or political dealings. It delivers a nostalgic blast while at the same time offering a new hope that the series can be freshened up.

Abrams gets away from the political bafflegab that made the prequels such a chore. Instead he returns to the basics, good vs. evil, fathers and sons, keeping it on track as an action-adventure with great characters.

Rey is the female lead everyone has been waiting for Marvel to make a movie about. Abrams beat them to the punch. She’s powerful, human, self-sufficient — “Don’t take my hand,” she snarls at Finn as he tries to lead her to safety — and would never even consider wearing a gold bikini.

As a Stormtrooper who finds redemption, Finn is the catalyst for much of the film’s action. He’s a little bit goofy, a lot brave and in over his head but because he thinks with his heart and not his head he’s a welcome, charming presence.

Poe Dameron has the swagger of a young Han Solo while BB-8 has personality plus and purrs like a cat. Kylo Ren, on the other hand, is a robed evildoer prone to childish temper tantrums.

Connecting these new characters to the universe are legends from the past, Han Solo, Chewbacca and Leia (Carrie Fisher).

Teaming Solo, Chewie and the Millennium Falcon provides an undeniable nostalgic rush but they are here as more than just cameos to pay tribute to the past.

Ford’s Spencer Tracy-esque vibe allows him the gravitas to utter lines like “The galaxy is counting on us,” while sidekick Chewie says much without actually speaking words. Leia has a smaller role, but it’s a blast to see Ford and Fisher, both looking age appropriate, together again.

Their first meeting exemplifies the movie’s playful tone. “You’ve changed your hair,” Hans says to his old flame, noticing her famous bagel hair buns are gone. What could have been a grand reunion is underplayed and instead the call back to the past is presented as a warm moment between two old friends.

It’s that kind of warmth and humanity that separates “The Force Awakens” from other big budget blockbuster entertainment. The finale is big and loud like the Marvel movies but unlike “The Avengers” films Abrams keeps the emotional core alive right up until the end.

It’s the right mix of space-opera-cool and character that will please the hard-core fans that see this as just another piece of a much larger puzzle but also works as a standalone story as well.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is a blast, nostalgic and otherwise.

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 2.25.55 PMStraight Outta Compton

“Straight Outta Compton,” the new biopic of original gangster rap band N.W.A. and their turbulent rise and fall, is at once a very specific look at the birth of a musical genre and a universal music industry story about how money, ego and bad management will break a band a part faster than you can say, “Boyz-N-The Hood.”

“Straight Outta Compton” plays like dozens of music bios that came before but despite featuring music industry clichés—sometimes the clichés of cheating managers, ego and excess are clichés because they’re true—it spends more time on the characters than the situation. It’s funnier and warmer than you might anticipate a movie about the ferocious and profane beginnings of gangster rap, a music born out of frustration and a need to be heard, but the emotional truth of the film is based in the relationship between the leads, particularly Dre, Eazy and Cube. A palpable sense of camaraderie is present throughout, and it grounds the film during its more excessive moments.

At two-and-a-half hours “Straight Outta Compton” is a detailed look at the band that, although it takes liberties with the facts in favour of drama, grabs the rhythm of the time by the throat and doesn’t let go. Echoes of the Rodney King trial reverberate throughout the film giving the movie, in light of Black Lives Matter, a timely feel that showcases the prescient nature of Ice Cube’s rhymes.

Honorary Mentions

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 10.06.32 AMBloody and by times bloody terrifying, every frame of “Crimson Peak” drips with Guillermo del Toro’s Grand-Guignol sensibility. Madness and murder are front and center, coupled with arch performances—Chastain in particular embodies the Hammer Horror style of wild-eye-acting—and the director’s flawless instinct for creating unease in the audience. It’s a transport to another world, a place where the ground seeps red and old houses moan in the wind. With atmosphere to burn it’s an operatic companion piece to “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” that plays like a fever dream.


Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 10.08.31 AMIt would be easy to write “It Follows” off as a teen horror, but it is much more than that. It’s a study — and a creepy one at that — of teen angst filtered through primal dread — fear of the dark, being alone, apparitions — and physical fear. An anxiety inducing synthesizer score adds to the atmosphere of unease, making this one of the most unsettling and original horror movies of the year.



Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 10.12.17 AMSicario” (it means “hitman” in Spanish) begins with a tightly wound sequence and doesn’t go slack for the next ninety minutes. Director Denis Villeneuve has made a slow burn of a film, deliberately paced, that weaves complex quasi-morality with a sense of hopelessness into an edge of your seat story.

TESTAMENT OF YOUTH: 3 STARS. “too old fashioned be a testament of youth.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 11.58.09 AMBased on English writer Vera Brittain’s 1933 memoir about her experiences during World War I, “Testament of Youth” is a handsomely presented, if sometimes a bit restrained story of one woman’s voyage into pacifism.

Alicia “Ex Machina” Vikander stars as Brittain, a tenacious young woman who battles against her father’s (Dominic West) wishes and the conventions of the day to take the Oxford University entrance exam. Her schooling is interrupted when WWI breaks out and brother Edward (Taron “Kingsman: The Secret Service” Egerton), her fiancé Roland Leighton (Kit “Game of Thrones “ Harington) and friends Victor (Colin Morgan) and Geoffrey (Jonathan Bailey) are sent to fight at the front lines. With her friends at risk Vera opts to join them, leaving school to enrol as a nurse in the Voluntary Aid Detachment. Tending to both German and English soldiers in London, Malta and France she learns first hand about personal loss, human suffering and the futility of war.

“Testament of Youth” offers up a different, parallel view to combat, than the usual war film. Told from the point of view of a battle nurse, it is different but no less effecting as a story of female strength. Vikander is the movie’s soul and strength, handing in a performance that is both strong willed and remarkably nimble. When Vera pretends to be the German girlfriend of a dying soldier, the performance transcends the “Downton Abbey” vibe of the production. Moments like these are almost an antidote to the melodrama that masquerades as actual emotion in other scenes. Almost but not quite.

The supporting performances work well enough, although other than Vera the emotional connection necessary for the anti-war message to be truly effective is missing. Large scale shots of dead and dying men in battle and hospitals visualize the sentiment but a real, personal connection with the characters would have been more fitting for a story about a woman so absolutely changed by the war and her experiences.

“Testament of Youth” is based on a true and well-documented story but a dose or three of melodrama—does she really have to get such bad news on her wedding day?—blunts the power of the story.


Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 3.49.05 PMRichard’s CP24 reviews for “The Age of Adeline,” “The Water Diviner” and “Ex Machina” with host Nneka Eliot.

Watch the whole thing HERE!


Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 9.59.41 AMRichard’s “Canada AM” reviews for “The Age of Adeline,” “The Water Diviner” and “Ex Machina” with host Beverly Thomson.

Watch the whole thing HERE!

Metro Canada: The Age of Adaline plays into our obsession with immortality

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 1.32.19 PMThe new Blake Lively movie The Age of Adaline sees its star play a woman who was frozen in time at age twenty-nine, never to age another day. No laugh lines, stiffness in the bones or grey hair for her. She drifts through life, an eternal twenty-something as her pals age and eventually die.

How does she compare to friends and family? Well, in the film the youthful centenarian Lively has a daughter played by Ellen Burstyn, a veteran actress fifty-five years her co-star’s senior.

It’s a romantic fantasy that brings up an interesting question. Sure, the idea of defying age sounds intriguing, but why would you want to fall in love when there is no possibility of growing old together? That’s the dreamy question at the heart of the film; the notion that allows director Lee Toland Krieger to explore the mushier side of the story, but what about the engine that drives the tale—immortality?

With characters like Wolverine and Edward Cullen pulling in big box office bucks it’s not shocking that movies seem infatuated with eternal life. Nor should it come as a shock that actors are drawn to immortal characters. The obsession with youth is one thing, that’s a job requirement—perhaps that’s why the USA, with Los Angeles at the epicenter, is the world capitol of plastic surgery—but I think it goes beyond that.

With visions of an ageless Adaline dancing in my head I posed a simple question to Alex Garland, the director and screenwriter of this weekend’s artificial intelligence drama Ex Machina: “Why have movies about immortality been so popular with actors and filmmakers?” I got an intriguing answer.

“There is an interest floating around which is as much to do with longevity, as it is immortality,” he said, “but it contains immortality as a long-term goal.

“Broadly speaking what I would say, at least where filmmakers are concerned, is that they’re subject to the same zeitgeist things that everybody else is so what they will do is manifest it in their job.”

Perhaps that’s why in the coming months we’ll see eternal characters in everything from The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Terminator Genisys to Pan and Crimson Peak.

The rich and famous have always dreamed of extending natural life. For instance, although it’s an urban legend that Walt Disney was frozen cryogenically to be thawed later it makes a good and almost true sounding story. While doing working on Ex Machina Garland says he discovered tales of wealthy people looking to find immortality through science.

“The researchers might be quite realistic about what artificial intelligence can promise but the funders may be less realistic about it. One of the things that some of the funders are looking for, and I’ve heard this expressed very explicitly, not in a coded way but an absolutely straightforward way, is the ability to download yourself and for you to survive long as a result of your enormous wealth.

“Powerful people don’t want to die. Everyone else figures they don’t have a choice but the really powerful people figure they do have a choice and they are going to explore it just in case.”

I think Hollywood may be obsessed with immortality for one other reason. Film stock offers it’s own kind of eternity, where one never ages and on the screen Blake Lively will be the twenty-nine-year-old Adaline forever.

EX MACHINA: 4 STARS. “presented as sci fi, but really is a human drama.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 1.22.20 PM“Ex Machina” is a high tech thriller that by and large ignores the tech to get down to the nitty gritty. Director and screenwriter Alex Garland (who previously scripted “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine”) places the story firmly in the world of artificial intelligence and then showcases the humanity (or lack thereof) of his characters, both flesh-and-blood and robotic.

When we first meet Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) he is a young, talented programmer at Bluebox, the world’s leading search engine. He is also the winner of a company wide contest to spend a week with Bluebook’s reclusive CEO, Nathan “The Mozart of Code” Bateman (Oscar Isaac). He arrives at Bateman’s remote complex to discover he is to take part in a Turing Test (named for “The Imitation Game’s” subject Alan Turing) to evaluate the ability of an automaton named Ava (Alicia Vikander) to show intelligent behaviour equal to, or undifferentiated from, that of a human being. Over seven sessions Caleb forms a deep connection with Ava as his relationship with alpha-male Nathan crumbles. In the end the young man must undergoes the greatest test of all—figuring out who to trust, man or machine.

With the cool austerity of Stanley Kubrick director Garland creates the antiseptic world of Bateman’s lair. Clinical and precise, it’s a stark backdrop for a sci fi story that is more concerned with ideas than special effects. It’s a “Frankenstein” story that is, as Bateman says, not interested in what people are thinking, but how people think.

And it will make you think. The Turing Test premise is an excuse to hang a thriller on, one that uses Ava’s artificial intelligence to have a look at how people can be manipulated with the bat of an eye or tilt of a head. Coupled with that it raises real issues regarding internet security—how much should your internet provider really know about your habits, likes and dislikes?—and surveillance.

I have to be deliberately sketchy with the plot details so as not to spoil the climax, but it’s a story that will stimulate conversation but does not ignoring the emotional elements of the Caleb’s tale.

Isaac once again proves to be a quiet but potent on-screen force as Bateman, always the smartest guy in the room, but one lacking the interpersonal skills to truly connect with people. Gleeson (who will next be seen alongside Isaac in “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”) is sympathetic and determined but it is Vikander who really impresses. She’s equal parts warmth and chilly precision as a robot who wants more than to be a machine.

“Ex Machina” is being presented as sci fi, but it really is a human drama; a human drama where the main character has a fibre optic nervous system.

Richard is hosting a Q&A with “Ex Machina” director Alex Garland!

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 6.52.17 PM“Ex Machina” opens April 24 in Toronto and Vancouver!

Richard will host a Q&A with “Ex Machina” director Alex Garland at the Varsity Cinema on Monday April 20, 2015.

Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander star in Ex Machina, a sci-fi/psy-fi thriller that offers a chilling look into the not-too-distant future of artificial intelligence.  Filled with plenty of twists, the film marks the directorial debut of Alex Garland, who wrote the script and has also penned acclaimed sci-fi fare like 28 Days Later and Sunshine.

Caleb (Gleeson), a 26-year-old coder at an internet-search giant, wins a competition to spend a week at the private mountain retreat belonging to Nathan (Isaac), CEO of the company. Nathan is not only reclusive, but also rich, with property that goes on forever.  On the way, the helicopter pilot tells Caleb, “We’ve been flying over his estate for the past two hours.”

Upon arrival, Caleb finds out that Nathan wants him to participate in an experiment – testing an artificial intelligence, housed in the body of a beautiful girl named Ava (Vikander).  As Caleb finds himself falling for Ava, a dark psychological battle ensues, where loyalties are torn between man and machine.  What does Ava really want?  And what is Nathan up to?

With a silver-clad scalp and mesh-wrapped waist, Ava is a breathtaking vision who walks like a dancer (perhaps enhanced by Vikander’s training as a ballerina).  Nathan’s retreat is built into rock, yet slick and shiny with glass walls that peer out onto a landscape of streams, peaks and greenery.

The film was partially shot on location in Norway.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 6.49.14 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 6.50.36 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 6.51.34 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 6.53.24 PM