Ex Machina

What is it about? :: Bluebook is the most popular search engine in the world, handling more than ninety percent of the internet user search. It is one of the most powerful companies in the world, and maintains a certain amount of control over the internet. Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer working at the same company, wins a one-week visit to the home of the CEO of the same company. Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) lives in a secluded building surrounded by greenery, an environment providing beautiful views and assuring separation from the busy life of the cities where the search engine offices are based. The only other person at home is a maid known as Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno) who doesn’t understand English and just does her job.

So what happens in this environment? :: So, this home of the CEO is actually more than what meets the eye. One would have guessed the same considering the fact that he has almost no contact with anyone else. He has a secret, and the place is more of a secret research facility than a house. He has developed something which needs to be tested, and Caleb is the man to administer the test to a special humanoid robot with Artificial Intelligence. This robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander) develops a good friendly relationship with Caleb, but it seems that she is a lot more than what he knows about, and there is a long history behind the robot and also beyond her. There are things that will be uncovered in the environment, but not many facts can go outside that world.

The defence of Ex Machina :: An intelligent science fiction movie takes form as Ex Machina, as it slowly, but steadily moves on to become more and more interesting, from a rather normal beginning. It has the good looks right from the beginning as the scene shifts to a world close to natural beauty. There, the insides of the home are also well done. There is elegance all around, and then we see the robot with the Artificial Intelligence and we feel that it might be the best we have seen with the design. Then, things go on to become rather tense, a feeling which comes along with the intellectual and creepy side going forward together. Sooner or later, this one asks you about whose side you are on, and most of the time when facing the question, you will have no answer; but you might not need to take sides – you can grab the messages instead. Then there is Alicia Vikander as the lady robot who will simply take your breath away with her performance; not human or robot, she is right there as the Artificial Intelligence.

Positives and negatives :: The other two main actors, Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac do their job really well. In this movie, you can see no action sequences or frightening scenes on screen, making this no sc-fi action and absolutely no sci-fi horror. But it is still a thriller and a drama, filled with messages in the core. A certain slow pace in the movie never really feels as we are too much interesting in the situation that is presented in this movie; sometimes one feel that it makes us more restless and unsettled. But whichever way the movie takes the turn, it keeps working so well. It keeps us engaged in the flick, and keeps providing us with those moments to memorize and think about. The twists in this movie are not heavily presented, but they are all result of some very clever work. As it moves towards a more haunting side, you will feel that this might be the best science fiction movie made without much of a heavy budget.

Soul exploration :: There are many messages in Ex Machina, and they can affect different people in different ways. Most of us are familiar about the Latin term “Deus ex machina” which means “god from the machine”. As I missed that during a literary quiz programme and this one will stay on my mind forever. It refers to a plot device by which a seemingly insolvable problem is solved all of a sudden by an unexpected thing – it is often a rather convenient method. Here, the title should mean “from the machine”. The movie deals with the insides of a machine here, with how the Artificial Intelligence makes the change, and brings something more out of a machine than what was expected of it. The one difference here is that it is the human who plays the God.

More soul exploration :: The problem in the movie arises from the human playing the role of God. He thinks that he can be in control all the time, but he just can’t do that. There are limitations to his abilities, and there are a few people who don’t really deserve to do such things. Man is no God and with power and money corrupting the brain, morality and any compassion takes the backseat. The robot here is not just a symbol of the specific character here, but that of a lot of people in the world who have restrictions imposed on them. Only a few people get lucky, and the rest are enslaved in one way or the other. The rich and the influential ones play God while the rest are made to be obedient robots. But if there will be change, and it might all be about one moment, just like Ava’s case.

How it finishes :: Ex Machina is the directorial debut of the man who wrote screenplay for 28 Days Later, Sunshine and the cult flick and favourite 2012 action movie Dredd. Here, we are provided with more questions than ever, about where humanity begins and ends, what is consciousness and how it can be defined, the influence of technology and its control over us, the limits which should be established – and many more. It is not something which you can hope to get with this much clarity as well as simplicity from the Hollywood movies. What this movie reminds me about is the 2011 Spanish psychological thriller movie, The Skin I Live In (La piel que habito) starring Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya. Ex Machina leaves one with a similar feeling; there is no visible horror and moments to make you scream, but it provides that special unsettling feeling.

Release date: 10th April 2015
Running time: 108 minutes
Directed by: Alex Garland
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Sonoya Mizuno, Oscar Isaac, Symara A. Templeman, Elina Alminas, Gana Bayarsaikhan, Tiffany Pisani, Claire Selby, Corey Johnson

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Captain Phillips

captainphillips (5)

There are only two a few movies which delivers almost in the same manner as the critics say; and we have had two in the gap on one month, which were Rush and Gravity; to that list, here comes Captain Phillips. It is easy to brand a movie as bad and the flick can easily live up-to that bad reputation; but when the critics say a movie is exceptional, there are only a few movies which actually prove them right for the common audience, and Captain Phillips is such a movie. There are so many movies branded as bad by the critics which were actually either good or bad, and there were others which were somehow branded good; but when we talk about this movie along with the other two I mentioned earlier, there would be a uniformity in this branding, and they are exceptional, no matter how we look at them; and who looks at them from which angle and on which day. Welcome to the thirty days of awesomeness from Hollywood, with the exception of Runner Runner – this was a month which started with the first two movies rating 57/200 together, and the last two rated 177/200; it is a strange month indeed!

Our first idea was to leave this movie behind, but that had to change. It was not just the reviews that did it, as it was more about the brilliance of Rush which we had earlier ignored brought to me. It almost completely took away the need to watch a movie which worked on familiar or more interesting background. So this is more of a biopic of Captain Richard Phillips, who was taken hostage by Somalian pirates in the Indian Ocean in 2009; we used to wonder – how is it going to work out? We had already watched a Tamil movie in the form of Maryan which had a hostage situation involving armed men from Sudan. Even as it turned out to be good, there were lot of things lacking in there as it scored just with the visuals, music and the right cast. It had stuck to the love theme in quite an unrealistic manner, and there it lost the footing a bit. Here we have another situation, and here we have Tom Hanks, along with the most realistic portrayal which is more focused on one thing rather than too many unnecessary exaggerated things which were praised to the heavens in the form of love and a lot like the same.

Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) is the captain of MV Maersk Alabama in its journey from Oman to Kenya. There is the high chance of being attacked by pirates of Somalia, and they take enough precautions, even keeping two groups of pirates away as they use deception of an airstrike arriving and also the waves of the ship itself to keep the groups away. The first group gets frightened and the second gets the boat’s engine out of order. One of the two groups of pirates return on the next day led by Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi) in a faster boat, carrying a quickly prepared ladder. In spite of the valiant efforts of the crew with pumps and waves, they get on board with the rusty ladder, after taking advantage of a faulty pump, capturing the captain and two others while the rest of the crew keeps themselves safe in the ship’s engine room. Muse hopes to keep the ship for asking for insurance money from the shipping company, and in case of a failure he has to answer to his bosses. About fourty or fourty five minutes into the movie, the ship has already been captured by the pirates.

As the crew capture the pirate leader, they are able to get the pirates into the ship’s lifeboat, but they manage to take Phillips with them as they go into the water in hope for getting some ransom money for the captain. The second half of the movie is about the life in that one orange boat and the efforts of the navy to get the captain back. The ship keeps following the lifeboat until the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Bainbridge arrives, followed by two other ships of combat. The pirates also lose contact with their mother boat and decides to go all the way to Somalia which the U.S. Navy ships can’t allow. As the pirates know that they have come too far to quit right now, the navy is ordered not to let them get to the land at any cost. Phillips’ efforts to reason with the pirates is in vain and so is his effort to swim away from them to one of the ships. They ask for money in millions for which the navy asks for time. Meanwhile, the SEAL shooters are trying to get shots to take down the pirates. The hostage situation gets worse as the pirates gets impatient and restless. The question would be about how they take care of the situation keeping the hostage alive and how the captain himself manages to keep him alive and in his senses.

As you might have already guessed, this is the movie of Tom Hanks. He depicts his character with such sincerity which is rarely seen on screen. I have known him for Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Appollo 13, Catch Me If You Can, Saving Private Ryan and The Terminal, but from now on-wards I shall know him first for this movie than any other. Yes, there are many other movies of class, but this is the one for now, to be discussed a lot and to be thought about a lot along with all that admiration which it gained with the claps in the theatre, even as it was not that loud as what Rush has managed even with a lesser audience. Tom Hanks is Richard Phillips, a man in charge of a ship and the captain who is taken as a hostage in a lifeboat, beaten up and almost killed by the pirates. There is no doubt left in the mind of the viewers about that. He lives through that experience rather than act with the tide. The portrayal of the leading character is worth the applause as he is a common man, an average person who does nothing heroic to be exact, just what is necessary and what was indeed the right thing. He doesn’t create a spectacle, but lives through that perfectly.

Even as we would never come to know the exact events of the Maersk Alabama hijacking and the Richard Phillips hostage crisis of 2009, the film’s version shall stand as the version that we know. It might not be perfect or close enough that perfection which one can imagine while watching such a movie inspired by true events. The movie has to be applauded for how much it has kept close to a realistic depiction of a ship hijacking and a hostage crisis though, without any exaggeration or stuff for the fans. In spite of the same, the movie is still thrilling, something I had my doubts about. The movie does have the moments of slowing down and repetitions, which can’t be denied, but those moments are very less. The climax scene is really good, and Tom Hanks as well as the actors who played the pirates go through that tense situation very well. The movie does put a strong value on the lives of one human, and places it as the central point. One would be left to wonder how many governments of the world would value the lives of their citizens this much. By the end, the humanity shall turn out victorious as most us already know from what we read from the internet.

Taking the action back from the thrilling climax, I would say that the moments in the ship was the best. What came between the time from the arrival of the SEALs and the negotiation with the pirate leader was a bit of slow and slightly dragging – still not something worth putting the blame on. Here we also have the realistic depiction of piracy, and it is a good reminder to those pirate loving fans of Pirates of the Carribean fans. There is no Captain Jack Sparrow when talking about it, and its time one stops heavily romanticizing vampires, werewolves and pirates just because some books or movies had such depictions. But the movie doesn’t fail to bring out how much of a situation the pirates are caught within, between their bosses and the risk of being murdered or caught by the armed forces. Piracy might remain a cause of concern for a long time, and this movie takes a realistic look into it, asserting the need to get rid of it. One last word would be about Barkhad Abdi who played the pirate leader Abduwali Muse – a great effort indeed; smart, intense and still funny at times; saying that he loves America and wants to live there for the rest of his life. This one is surely a strong contender for some Academy awards next year – along with Gravity and Rush.

Release date: 11th October 2013
Running time: 134 minutes
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali, Michael Chernus, David Warshofsky, Corey Johnson, Chris Mulkey, Yul Vazquez, Max Martini, Omar Berdouni, Mohamed Ali, Issak Farah Samatar

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.