|Garland's directorial debut is brilliant.|
Directed by Alex Garland
Produced by Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich
Written by Alex Garland
Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac
Alex Garland's first outing as a director is a fascinating science-fiction thriller. Caleb (Gleeson) is a young programmer who wins a contest to take part in a history-making experiment involving the development of artificial intelligence. When he arrives at the research facility, which is located at an isolated house in the countryside, he meets Nathan (Isaac), the founder of the company Caleb works for and the head (only) researcher. Nathan and Caleb begin a series of tests on Ava (Vikander), a promising A.I. who demonstrates human behavior. As Caleb conducts interviews with her, studying her reactions, he starts to develop feelings toward her and doubt Nathan's intentions. But can either Ava (robot) or Nathan (human) be trusted? Will man or machine win the day?
Not without an impressive resume (writing original works like 28 Days Later… and Sunshine), Alex Garland explores familiar territory in a compelling, fresh approach. A.I. movies are rarely as thoughtful, minimal, and beautiful. The cast is uniformly great, but the film also benefits from excellent production values. Visually the film is absolutely stunning. From the rich cinematography to the flawless production design, this film drips with fine craftsmanship - and on a low budget, too. The atmosphere really allows the story to delve into the psyches of the men and the inner workings of the machine. While this dynamic has been explored, it's not often as effective or organic as Garland is able to present it. Interestingly, the score is provided by two composers - Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury - who've specialized in documentary scores. The music pervades the film, and only heightens the tension in this fight for survival. It might be sold a sci-fi indie, but the film, which is one of the year's best so far, is also one of the best psychological thrillers in a while.
Oscar Potential: None