EX MACHINA

Not many supernatural thrillers deserve to be called profound. A movie like, say, INCEPTION, gets so tangled up in its ideas, it becomes opaque. But EX MACHINA spells out its ethical concerns as clearly as its story, and both combine to make one of the most satisfying films of the year, difficult to shake off after seeing. It’s a mad scientist flick, a revenge movie, a love story, a twist-y slap in the face, behind which there may be blood and sinew — or just circuit boards and wiring. It satirizes Google and Silicon Valley-style geniuses to chilling effect, at the same time offering a plausible theory for conspiracy theorists worried that we (that is, everyone in the world) have sacrificed our privacy to a grand scheme of ultimate control. But the Big Themes never overwhelm what, in a way, is a traditional triangle drama between two men and a pretty girl. Who’s zoomin’ who? That’s the question posed almost from the beginning all the way through to the exquisite ending (which reminded me — possible spoiler alert — of Kiefer Sutherland’s MIRRORS). The casting is flawless. Oscar Isaac owns his role from the get-go as the brilliantly obnoxious and tetchy inventor, who, as I watched him, hilariously reminded me of producer Scott Rudin: I swear it wasn’t until I read the credits at the end that I found out Rudin (you know what’s coming) is one of the Executive Producers! Domhnall Gleason, likely set to explode in the next STAR WARS saga, holds back in the face of Isaac’s overbearingness — until he doesn’t, in a wonderful reversal, which has a reversal of its own. And Alicia Vikander is a self-contained Beauty and Beast who looks great whether in clothes or half-metal framework. This one is a winner ! — Jeff Schultz

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