Alex Garland

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Alex Garland's 'Ex_Machina' Touches A Real Nerve


Alex Garland Domhnall Gleeson

'Ex Machina' is the directing debut of writer Alex Garland, who burst onto the cinematic scene in 2000 with Danny Boyle's adaptation of his novel 'The Beach'. Since then, he has explored sci-fi themes in screenplays for '28 Days Later', 'Sunshine', 'Never Let Me Go' and 'Dredd'. But 'Ex Machina' is a completely new approach for him.

'Ex_Machina' comes from writer/director Alex Garland
'Ex_Machina' comes from writer/director Alex Garland

The film is set, he says, "10 minutes into the future", exploring technology that is possible but doesn't quite exist yet. With just three characters, it's a contained exploration of artificial intelligence, a subtle story that features one of Garland's trademark genre twists, but never boils over into his usual riotous mayhem.

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Ex Machina Review


Excellent

Slick and seductive, this exploration of artificial intelligence may essentially only have three characters, but it's complex, provocative and thoroughly engaging. After writing screenplays for films like 28 Days Later and Never Let Me Go, Alex Garland moves easily into the director's role, telling a superbly atmospheric story that twists and turns in subtle ways to both draw us in and freak us out. And the cast adds even more depth to the interaction.

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is one of the smartest geeks at a technology mega-corporation, and he's thrilled when he wins a competition to spend two weeks with company founder Nathan (Oscar Isaac) at his vast isolated estate somewhere in the far reaches of what looks like Scandinavia. Once there, Nathan assigns Caleb to evaluate his latest invention, a robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander), and see if she passes the Turing Test: does Caleb remember that he's interacting with a computer? As Ava and Caleb check each other out, the heavy-drinking Nathan watches perhaps a bit too closely. Caleb begins to realise that he's never out of view, and Ava warns him not to trust Nathan. Then strange power cuts begin to hint that something else is going on here.

Where this goes is surprising because most of Garland's scripts and novels escalate to scenes of outrageous horror. But this story remains controlled and internalised; even when it gets violent, it remains emotionally resonant. And these three characters are fascinating (the fourth person in the house is Nathan's mute sushi chef, played by Sonoya Mizuno). Their conversations are packed with subtext, continually shifting the power while making us wonder who's really in control here. And the actors play them with earthy authenticity. Vikander has an uncanny humanity even though 80 percent of her body is a special effect. Gleeson is thoroughly likeable, easy to identify with as he falls into the rabbit hole. And Isaac is simply magnetic in the way he combines Nathan's groovy laid-back attitude with something vaguely sinister.

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Preview screening of movie 'Ex Machina'

Alex Garland - Preview screening of movie 'Ex Machina' at The IFI - Arrivals - Dublin, Ireland - Monday 19th January 2015

Alex Garland

Ex Machina Screening at The IFI

Alex Garland and Domhnall Gleeson - Director Alex Garland & actor Domhnall Gleeson at a preview screening of their movie 'Ex Machina' at The IFI, Dublin, Ireland - 19.01.15. - Dublin, Ireland - Monday 19th January 2015

Alex Garland and Domhnall Gleeson
Alex Garland
Alex Garland

Ex-Machina Trailer


Winning first prize in a competition, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is sent to meet the CEO and creator of the company he works for. Arriving at the mysterious private home of the illusive Nathan (Oscar Isaac), Caleb believes that he may have a chance to relax and get to know the man that created the company, and possibly earn a promotion at some point in the future. What he soon realises, is that Nathan has organised this event in order for Caleb to serve as a test subject, used to monitor the progress on of the greatest achievement of mankind to date - a fully functioning AI named Ava (Alicia Vikander). As Caleb realises what is going on, he steadily begins to learn about the meaning of being human, all through his interaction with what will soon be mankind's replacement. 

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Ex-Machina Trailer


Sometimes, a competition can reward you with more than you bargained for. When a 24-year-old coder for the world’s largest investment company wins the chance to spend a week with the companies CEO, he has no idea what is in store for him. Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) travels into the middle of nowhere to find the retreat of CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac), but he soon discovers that the contest has actually entered him into an insane experiment, rather than offering him a reward. Steadily, it is revealed that Nathan has actually developed the world’s first AI, and from there, the world will never be the same again. 

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Picture - Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby and... , Thursday 20th September 2012

Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby and Alex Garland - Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby and Alex Garland Thursday 20th September 2012 Fantastic Fest 2012 - Dredd 3D Premiere - Arrivals

Dredd Review


Excellent
If you can still remember Sylvester Stallone's ridiculous 1995 sci-fi action romp Judge Dredd, don't worry. This is not a remake. It's a film actually based on the graphic novels themselves, so it has a completely different style of characters and setting. Leaner and much meaner, it's also one of the most textured and intelligent futuristic bloodbaths in ages.

It's the not-so-distant future, and 800 million people are crammed into the only remaining inhabitable area in North America, a mega-city that covers the East Coast. With so many people, crime is out of control, so cops and lawyers have been replaced with judges who arrest, try and execute criminals on the spot. Dredd (Urban) is a particularly efficient judge, assigned one day to take trainee Anderson (Thirlby) with him for evaluation. But they walk into a nasty gang war in a 200-storey tower block, where snarling gang boss Ma-Ma (Headey) locks them in and starts hunting them down. And while Dredd and Anderson have to be careful not to kill the block's innocent residents, Ma-ma doesn't care how many people die.

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Never Let Me Go Review


Excellent
Based on the Kazuo Ishiguro novel, this haunting drama may be set in a parallel reality, but what it has to say about human hopes and societal ambition is deeply relevant. It's also beautifully directed and acted.

After a medical breakthrough in the 1950s, children are genetically created to grow up to be organ donors, hugely extending the human lifespan. Although the children rarely make it to their mid-20s. One of these is Kathy (Meikle Small, then Mulligan), who grew up in a special school with her best friend Ruth (Purnell, then Knightley). Kathy has a crush on the school oddball Tommy (Rowe, then Garfield), but it's Ruth who makes her move. And this action could have repercussions if organ-harvesting deferrals for couples are granted, as rumour has it.

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Picture - Alex Garland London, England, Wednesday 13th October 2010

Alex Garland Wednesday 13th October 2010 The 54th Times BFI London Film Festival - Never Let Me Go - Photocall London, England

Sunshine (2007) Review


Excellent
Danny Boyle could make watching paint dry compelling. From the frenzy of Trainspotting to the starkly spare wide shots of a barren London in 28 Days Later, Boyle has shown repeatedly his skill as a visual filmmaker. Even a weaker piece like The Beach dazzles the eye. Sunshine is no exception. From the moment the film announces itself with an astonishing shot of sun, space, and ship, Sunshine is a sight to be seen. But it is also more.

Working sci-fi here with the same ease with which he handled horror in 28 Days Later, Boyle recasts the genre far from the sheen of Lucas' most recent space visions. It is gritty, dark, and thrilling. You can see the grease on the ship's walls. Much as with his zombie film, the outlandish story here greatly benefits from Boyle's grounding treatment. Set in 2057, Sunshine follows the flight of Icarus II, a massive, shielded space ship sent to revive our dying sun and prevent the extinction of earth and humanity. No light task. Captain Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada) leads a dedicated crew, among them physicist Capa (Cillian Murphy), pilot Cassie (Rose Byrne), biologist Corazon (Michelle Yeoh), and engineer Mace (Chris Evans). Their mission is to deliver the "payload," a mammoth nuke, into the sun, set it off, and jet. Icarus I, missing for seven years, never managed.

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28 Weeks Later... Review


Good
The grisly 28 Weeks Later... jettisons the director, cast, and recurring characters from the original film -- Danny Boyle's 2003 nightmare vision 28 Days Later -- and keeps only the franchise's dynamic plot device: a rage virus that, in seconds, turns unsuspecting citizens into violent zombies. It's an effective way to wipe the slate clean before more blood is splattered across it.

Spanish filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo structures his picture less like a conventional sequel and more like a "next chapter" in the horror saga, which might explain why this fresh, energized, and clever installment works better than it should.

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28 Days Later Review


Excellent
Although its title might lead you to believe that they actually made a sequel to the awful Sandra Bullock movie about alcoholism, 28 Days Later is anything but a journey through rehab. In fact, the disturbing, grotesque nature of the film makes rehab look like a peaceful picnic at the zoo... well, just as long as there aren't monkeys at that zoo.

The recipe for 28 Days Later is quite simple: half Outbreak, half Night of the Living Dead, and maybe a dash or two of Planet of the Apes. While the ingredients are familiar, thankfully, director Danny Boyle, who also helmed the bizarre Trainspotting, contributes his own unique seasonings, turning this acidic dish into a journey through hell-on-earth; it's one of the most frightening movies of the year.

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Alex Garland

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