The idea of a robot feeling emotions is not an original concept nor is trying to make rot look and feel human. Ex Machina is a film with a concept that has been looked at for decades, but despite this it is great film and makes you question a great deal about humans, robots and the difference between them. These questions make for a great thriller which is intense, confusing and leads you down many twists and turns. Can you trust robots? Can you trust humans? Who is in control? What ere the motives behind the machine.
The cast is small with basically only 3 characters all be it very strong and interesting characters. We have Caleb who has been chosen at Random? To go to his boss’s house to test an Ai that has been created. Caleb is great with codes and as you will find out has no attachments in the outside world making him the perfect choice. His boss is Nathan who was a child genius and has created and AI that could possibly be human, but he has a dark side, which brings turmoil to Caleb’s world. Finally we have the Robot Ava who has been created and set up to take on Turings test. Can a robot be human in the way they act and behave? Cn they think for themselves? Feel love and show love? Can a human look past the metallic exterior and fall for a robot?
This is in the backdrop of pure isolation. Nathan lives in the mountains cut off from humans. There are no windows making the whole place feel claustrophobic and edgy, There is no escape and if all went wrong no one would know about it, this makes Caleb and even Nathan very vulnerable. The relationship between the two men is very uncomfortable throughout, fed by Ava who is almost in control of them both although they do not realise it. Despite her shimmering, shiny silver skin her face is human and her voice is human she has been made to be attractive purposely to draw Caleb in. She instantly befriends Caleb so that he is far more at ease with her than Nathan. Any relationship that Nathan may have had with Caleb is destroyed from the start as seeds of doubt are fed into Caleb’s brain. Is the Robot manipulating human or is Nathan a bad guy?
Over 7 days Caleb and Ava build a relationship by asking questions of one and other, sharing memories, showing their feelings, which is all part of the test. Everything they do is watched by Nathan who is almost like Big brother? Is it all pretense or is it real? You sit in your chair and feel the intensity of the situation and feel uneasy at every word exchanged between Nathan and Caleb. This where the acting is so good from all 3 performers. You never feel safe sitting in your chair and until the end you don’t know who to trust, who is human and who is robot? Who is in control?
The performances are brilliant in particular Oscar Isaac who is creepy, twitch, intelligent and makes you feel uneasy. Gleeson is the innocent toy to be played with and he is really carving out a great career for himself. Alicia Vikanda is able to portray a female that is neither robot nor human with her cold voice, but emotional eyes. That is a tough character to take on, but she does it effortlessly without becoming wooden or metal in this instance. I think her look is definitely based on a Bjork video. The set closes in on you and adds to the intensity and almost suffocates you as the fear of isolation and danger increases throughout the film. I loved the film and it kept me thinking! Could I see it again? Maybe? But knowing the end would take the edge off it. This reminds me of the weirdness of Bladerunner, but more personal.
Exodus: Gods and Kings
I think I have said this before, but I will say it again I am not a religious man. I have however read the bible and know the story’s reasonably well. Moses and the freedom of the Jews is one of the most famous in the bible and one of the most interesting. I confess that before seeing the new version I had quite a bit of trepidation because why remake something that was in my opinion done so well before. I think the Ten Commandments was a brilliant film with brilliant performances by Charlton Heston and Yul Brenner. The passion of Heston as Moses was in great contrast to the cold steel of Brenner as Rameses. I imagined that the only reason that Ridley Scott made the new version was that he wanted to put a new slant on it. My thoughts were correct aided by the recent articles which condemned the films inaccuracies. This was clearly a film made by a man who didn’t really believe in the power of god and miracles.
The first big difference between the new version and The Ten Commandments is where it starts. Exodus starts its tale late on with Moses being a full grown adult and a very well respected one at that. An Egyptian until proven otherwise and cousin to Rameses. It is not long until Moses realizes that he is not an Egyptian but a Hebrew rescued at birth by the pharaohs sister after finding him in a basket on the river. Rameses soon casts Moses out although clearly still has a bond with the man he was brought up with. This s when the not so godly tone comes into play. Moses finds a wife and continues life without faith and encourages his son to find his own path even if it means he to has no faith. This is until a walk up the mountain leads to a bump on the head, which then leads to a vision of the fiery bush and a young boy telling Moses to free the slaves. Is this young boy god? We don’t really find out although I presume it is. The whole episode is treated as a feverish illusion rather than a vision from god which is how the bible portrays it.
The vision sets Moses on the path back to Egypt to confront Rameses and force him to free the slaves. Moses does not however choose to put all his faith in god and trains a small army to conquer the Egyptians. The plan is to starve the Egyptians and to attack the channels which feed the mighty empire. God or boy has no patience for this and wants things done yesterday and sends the famous plagues whilst Moses waits in the background. At this point Scott is trying to apply logic to the plagues and find a way fo explain them without the power of god behind them, but at the same time showing the slaves faith that this is not natural disaster, but a an almighty powerful being helping them. This is fine, I myself believe that if the plagues did occur then there must be a logical reason? But then this disappears when the first born Egyptian is brought to death as this is shown in a more supernatural way. The parting of the red sea which for many is the most amazing and memorable miracle is explained in earthquakes and twisters.
Moses is shown as a mad man who sees things and battles’ with the boy god. It seems as though Moses has no real plan or any idea what he is doing. Is he just hallucinating? I know a bump on the head has never made me get up and create revolution? Are we seeing an early example of mental ill health in the bible? Either way I feel the story is far better as it is written. Whether you have faith or not it is a great story and one that in my opinion shouldn’t be tampered with. I said the same about the recent adaption of Noah, which was absolutely ridiculous. I understand what Scott was trying to do but I think he should have left well alone.
I think Christian Bale is one of the best actors around, but this was a dull performance from him, which lacked passion. Joe Edgerton as Pharaoh was a good choice and he did bring a sensitive side to Rameses and you could feel the bond between his character and Moses, but I prefer Brenner in this role any day of the week. Some of the accents sounded pretty ridiculous too as we hear the sounds of Scotland coming from one Egyptian. There were clearly many nations involved leading to a mix of voice, which didn’t quite work. The scenes were breathtaking and inspiring and this tale definitely gained from CGI effects which were not around all those years ago. In saying this I wouldn’t say that it was superior to the 50’s version because the sets were excellent back then and reakl, Those that do not know the story may enjoy this more than me and those that like the fact there God is not a major force, but an entity explained by coincidence and natural disaster may prefer this to the 50’s version. I am a traditionalist and prefer the story how it is written.