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Ex machina reviewBy James Mandell

So who inherits the Earth after us? Cockroaches? Hmmm, no opposable thumbs–problem. Likely answer: Self-sufficient AI’s. It’s an easy logic leap. We could eventually create independently thinking/learning machines, tireless super-brains that simply push us aside as antiquated evolutionary flotsam, without so much as a wink to ol’ Charlie D. Just the sort of conceit that could power an elegantly subdued night at the movies.

Domhnall Gleeson (Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter films) plays Caleb, a talented coder who wins a company lottery to spend a week on the Olympus-like estate of the fictional founder of the world’s largest search engine. Played by Oscar Isaac, he’s a quirky alcoholic genius who’s hunkered down to creating a future-perfect female robot and is keen on testing its viability via a series of meetings with Caleb, its first visitor. Can this sensuously sculpted erector set pass for something beyond a clever box of sentient calculations?

Cool premise, gorgeous articulation. Set in the thousands-of-acres estate of its quirky trillionaire CEO, we are treated to an insider’s view of all the minimalism money can buy, from subterranean laboratories to perfectly polished empty bedroom space, save for a mattress and omnipresent screen. Oh, the money it takes to clear all that space and leave nothing but gleaming renditions of emptiness!

In the next leap after last year’s amazing little run-up, “Her,” (with Joaquin Phoenix playing a guy who falls in love with his computer’s new operating system), this life-sized fembot with interchangeable parts and a working love zone stands behind a glass wall, ready for verbal intercourse. The ensuing dialogs are mesmerizing, a dance between three brilliant minds, with wonderfully restrained writing, pristine sets and cinematography, and a wholly original electronic score from Ben Salisbury and Jeff Barrow, reminiscent of the ground-breaking synth music in 1956’s Forbidden Planet (a Netflix-worthy classic).

Relative unknown Alicia Vikander makes her come-hither robot credible and fascinating to watch and the overall experience is a high-tech love-dance that may stun you with its originality. So don’t let a few implausible details stop you from buying into such an imaginative experience. The possibilities are on the way.

Rated R

1 Hour 48 Minutes

Get times and tickets at Fandango.com


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Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning journalist, author and film/TV critic. She can be heard regularly on Cumulus radio stations throughout the US, and on BBC Radio.

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