Story Spotlight: Ex Machina – Alex Garland

Ex Machina, by Alex Garland, left me uneasy. That’s how I know it was an excellent movie.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t seek to be uncomfortable when I go to the theater. Far from it, in fact. And I don’t search out stories for their shock or creep values either. No, I look for substance in a story, and Ex Machina delivers a meaty, intricate, thoroughly developed piece of plotting and storytelling genius.

First, let’s talk about the house. Aside from a few minor scenes spotted throughout the film, the entire thing takes place inside a house. It’s a beautiful house, of course–a thing of modern beauty. And the pure and wild nature surrounding it provides a breathtaking backdrop. And while that was truly impressive, that’s not what’s important about the house.

I consider a story to be superb when it can successfully scale down the scope of its setting. Anything can grab a reader’s/viewer’s attention by putting the entire world at risk, but when a storyteller can grip you on a minuscule scale, that shows talent. Even more so when the story can be carried beyond its ending to the logical conclusion of the eerie, global threat that it implies. Ex Machina does this with precision.

Beyond that, the dialogue, the characters, and the acting were all spot on. And more still, the movie kept me mystified until the very end. My mind often tries to guess at a story’s conclusion without prompting, so I find it delightful when I’m surprised by the turnout. Needless to say, Ex Machina succeeded there. And yet, the ending was somehow also to be expected. It’s hard to explain without giving too much away, but rest assured that this is an excellent story.

Bizarre. Eerie. Intriguing.

5 stars out of 5

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