Posts Tagged ‘ex machina’

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The Imitation Game (2015)

May 17, 2015

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode
Director: Morten Tyldum (Headhunters)

Bottom Line: It was interesting timing for me to watch The Imitation Game considering I just watched director Morten Tyldum’s excellent Headhunters last week and a few weeks before that I saw Ex Machina, whose plot is largely centered around something called a Turing Test, which evaluates if a machine can exhibit intelligent behavior similar to that of a human being. I knew nothing of The Imitation Game plot prior to watching it so it was a pleasant surprise to discover it is the story of Alan Turing, a highly regarded British mathematician and cryptanalyst for whom the Turing Test was named after.

Benedict Cumberbatch gives his typical wonderful performance as Turing, a man whose awkward genius and social ineptitude isn’t that far removed Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes portrayal on his BBC series. He plays Turing with a touch less narcissism and quite a bit more vulnerability. Indeed, Turing was a homosexual in a time (the 1940s-1950s) when such a thing wasn’t just frowned upon, it was prosecutable. While the film spends time detailing his arrest for gross indecency and flashes back to his schooling as a youth and the formation of his first meaningful relationship with another boy, the majority of the film highlights his time at Bletchley Park, a British codebreaking centre, working with a team of fellow geniuses and trying to crack Enigma, a machine used by Nazi Germany to send coded military messages.

The Imitation Game is an amazing and heartbreaking story, in which one of the greatest (unknown) heroes of World War II is later vilified by his country for something we now view as socially acceptable. The film combines drama and humor exceptionally well. Turing is portrayed as a flawed, often self-centered human being, but still someone that is quite easy to root for. Cumberbatch is worthy of his Oscar nomination and Keira Knightley is also great as one of his fellow codebreakers and continues to solidify her status as what I consider to be The Next Kate Winslet.

The Imitation Game delivers on all levels with a great story and top notch acting. Alan Turing is a man whose time and contributions to our world should never be forgotten. The posthumous pardon he was granted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2009 was long overdue.

Replay Value: This is definitely a film worth watch again and probably worth owning.
Sequel Potential: N/A
Oscar Potential: Won Best Adapted Screenplay. Cumberbatch and Knightley received acting nominations, Tyldum a directing nom, and the film was also nominated for Best Picture, film editing, production design, and score.

Grade: 8/10 (Excellent)

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Ex Machina (2015)

April 27, 2015

Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac
Director: Alex Garland

Bottom Line: Ex Machina is a strong sci-fi film that will keep you interested even though it lacks action and is slowly paced. Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander are excellent in their roles. Isaac plays a passive-aggressive and manipulative CEO that has created a revolutionary human-like AI named Ava. Gleeson is well cast as Caleb, an expert computer programmer summoned to interact with Ava and see if she can pass a Turing Test, which is essentially a test to see how the AI reacts to human interaction – whether she is adapting on her own or just doing what she is programmed to do.

It’s a small film, set in a secluded fortress in Alaska, that features only four principle characters, but it works well in its contained atmosphere. Certainly, Isaac’s billionaire appears to be the kind of person that would be better off programming humanoids than actually interacting with real ones. He’s not a likable person, even if his accomplishments may provoke admiration – a realization that Caleb has shortly after arriving. It’s a film that is centered around Caleb’s interactions with the icy, yet unquestionably sexy Ava and his attraction to her creates the core dilemma of the film: is she genuinely fond of Caleb or is she just behaving how she is programmed to behave.

There is little to complain about concerning Ex Machina but, for me, it lacked the “wow factor” that many seemed to take away from the film. Still, it’s a solid film with quality performances that should leave audiences feeling satisfied afterwards.

Replay Value: I might watch it again some day but it doesn’t feel like a movie I’m anxious to see again.
Sequel Potential: I don’t think so, but it’s certainly possible.
Oscar Potential: With an April release, it’s highly unlikely the Academy will remember it come Oscar season – and it’s hard to compare it to what hasn’t been released yet – but Isaac’s performance is strong enough to keep in mind and Vikander is also really good. There may also be some Visual Effects appreciation for this film.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Recommended/Must See)

Edit: Upon further reflection, I have raised my grade for this movie a full point. The more I think about the movie, the more I realize how riveting it was. It’s absurdly suspenseful, but it’s so subtle you barely even notice.