"Ex Machina" is a terrifying, hauntingly atmospheric film about artificial intelligence, human consciousness and mechanized femininity (read Andrew O'Hehir and director Alex Garland's great discussion of the film's knotty "gender stuff" here). And occasionally -- unlike many other movies that cover similar thematic territory -- it’s also laugh out loud funny.
The levity (and much of the darkness, admittedly) comes courtesy of the virtuosic Oscar Isaac, who plays a reclusive tech billionaire named Nathan. Isaac gives one of the most believable portrayals of this sort of Jobsian mogul that I’ve ever seen on screen, both menacing and charming, self-disciplined and reckless in equal measure. With his thick beard and self-confident swagger, Nathan is both a totally believable on both an individual and archetypal level -- the epitome of the swaggering, egotistical Silicon Valley billionaire, warped to the point of dystopia. And did we mention he can dance?
To wit, one of the most notable scenes in the film is a choreographed dance sequence, where Nathan and his assistant Kyoko break it down to the strains of "Get Down Saturday Night" amid some sweet disco lighting. In a film that has done nothing but incrementally ramp up tension since the opening credits, this funkadelic dance party acts like a refreshing palate cleanser between courses, not to mention a chance for Isaac to show off his world-historical apple-picking moves.
Give Oscar all the Oscars, please.