Screenwriter Alex Garland has been dipping his wick into challenging, sci-fi genre work for a while now (Never Let Me Go, the magnificent Dredd) so it’s no surprise that he’s finally taken the leap into directing. The result is every bit as introspective and thought provoking as you’d expect, but it’s also creepy as fuck.
The story involves genius programmer Oscar Isaac (amazing actor, lame X-Men villain) enlisting quiet staff member Domhnall Gleeson (also an amazing actor, ex-Weasley) to test his new A.I., Ava.
In this tense 3-way of a script (ooh-er!), with such extremely capable rising stars running the show, it’s Alicia Vikander as Ava who truly shines – literally with her wig off… An utterly bewitching creation to behold, both in flawless CGI and performance, her wide searching eyes and glowing exposed internals helps her give an extraordinary neaunced performance where every blink, every quizzical tilt of the head could mean everything. Or nothing.
And that’s another cool thing. From the three leads, it’s never entirely sure who you should be rooting for. There are mind-games a-plenty going on here. Is Isaac an abusive creator with a sadistic God complex or is he merely an asshole of the highest order? What the hell is Gleeson’s deal, do those needy puppy-dog eyes conceal something far more sinister? And as for Ava is she a tortured innocent, a shrewd slave in revolt or an Energizer bunny boiler?
Even by the end you’re still not completely 100% about who is “right”, with an ending so ambiguous you’re not entirely sure if what you’ve witnessed constitutes a happy ending or a sad ending or just an ending. In lesser hands it could of damaged the film, but instead Garland gives the film a Kubrick style tinge which coolly heaps on the dread and makes the ambiguity wholly thrilling (something he turned all the way up to eleven in his follow up, Annihilation).
In some ways the film manages to be reminiscent of a cross between Silence Of The Lambs, The Last Seduction and Metropolis in so fact the male/female mind games are based not just on gender but on humanity itself.
If there is any problems (and trust me, there ain’t many) it’s that I predicted a fair many of the twists before they happened but not even this affects the overall quality of the film as the haunting quality of it carries it through any plot signposting nicely.
Oh, and Oscar Isaac dances a mean disco, too. He didn’t do THAT in Star Wars Ep. 7…
If only Oscar Isaac did that in Star Wars, it would have lightened the mood…