Movie: Ex Machina
What it’s up for: Original Screenplay, Visual Effects

Artificial Intelligence movies tend to be relatively predictable. That proves true in Ex Machina but only to a certain extent.

Ex Machina tells the story of an employee of a tech company (essentially a fictional version of Google) named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) who wins the opportunity to spend a week at the estate of the CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Nathan’s real intention for Caleb is for him to be a Turing test for Nathan’s new A.I. technology. Caleb meets Ava (Alicia Vikander), a humanoid robot, and he and Nathan work together to test the authenticity of her intelligence.

Before I even mention the nominated categories for this film, I have to make a note on behalf of Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander. Oscar Isaac’s character might be one of my favorite characters from any movie this year. Isaac creates the feel of the film all on his own. There’s something completely engrossing about Nathan. He’s eccentric and affable yet threatening at the same time. Isaac pulls it off so well. Vikander’s triumph comes from the fact that she plays a robot with whom the screenwriters needed the audience to make an emotional connection. She acts in a bodysuit the entire time in order to become Ava. This required the extra effort to speak and move as a highly advanced robot, not as a human. Her acting and the visual effects combine into a believable and realistic A.I..

Those visual effects for Ava turned Vikander’s bodysuit into segments that were completely see-through with visible mechanical components. The effort that went into this process is monumental. They did not use greenscreens. They did not use motion-capture. They used a bunch of processes that I don’t understand. The effect is incredible. After a bit of time passes, you forget that she’s fake.

The original screenplay for this film truly shines. The clever script mixes perfectly with gorgeous scene structures. Although there is an element of predictability to the story, it is engaging enough that it doesn’t matter.You still want to find out what happens. They bring in emotion, urgency, and mystery at just the right times. The exterior scenes on this fictional estate are breathtaking and create a striking symbolic contrast with the interior scenes in Nathan’s house. The production designers deserve some recognition for their efforts as well.

Original Screenplay – Unlikely, but well-deserved
Visual Effects – Unlikely