It may hurt a little, but we can begrudgingly forgive the Guatemalan-born Óscar Isaac Hernández for scrubbing his artistic identity clean of any vaguely Latino overtones and being reborn as the anglo-acceptable, ethnically-ambiguous Oscar Isaac. He’s not the first to have done it, and he certainly won’t be the last. Truth is, with the hopelessly archaic biases still festering in Hollywood casting circles, letting your talent (and face) speak for itself isn’t exactly a bad career move. As a case in point, we have the British sci-fi thriller Ex Machina, which will be premiering stateside as part of the SXSW film festival later this month.
In Ex Machina Isaacs plays a scientist, inventor and tech CEO named Nathan. Not a gold-toothed drug addict named Rodríguez, not a tattooed gangbanger named Jesús; no, he is a CEO name Nathan. Good for you Mr. Hernández. Nathan is an alcoholic genius who lives alone in the woods and dresses like a West Coast hipster/Kool A.D. from Das Racist. When an employee of his company by the name of Caleb wins the chance to spend a week at Nathan’s woodland retreat, it soon becomes clear that there are ulterior motives at play.
Indeed, it seems Nathan has been secretly developing the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence robot, and Caleb has been invited to perform a Turing Test on his creation. The robot, named Ava, quickly demonstrates an impressive level of self-awareness and soon begins to win over Caleb with her charm and robot sexuality. Nathan warns Caleb to be wary, things get confusing, loyalties grow complicated, and soon we can’t tell who’s manipulating whom (I’m betting it’s the robot).
Ex Machina is the directorial debut from heavyweight screenwriter, novelist, and film producer Alex Garland, who is perhaps best known for penning the script for 28 Days Later. While we can expect a grade A screenplay from Ex Machina, the trailer shows an impressively refined visual style, with Nathan’s architecturally stunning, glass, and concrete mountain abode establishing a dense atmosphere and almost coming off as a fourth character in this claustrophobic chamber piece. Also of note are the special effects which render actress Alicia Vikander’s Ava as disturbingly human as she is artificial.
Already on screens in its native Britain, Ex Machina has racked up critical praise and may very well turn out to be a modern classic of the sci-fi genre. Our readers from the Texas Triangle would be well-advised to check this one out at SXSW, while the rest of us will have to wait till April 10th for it’s theatrical premiere.