Sexy, sharp and stylish, this brilliant British sci-fi thriller explores man’s relationship to machines with verve, wit and polish.
Precision-tooled to perfection with sumptuously seductive design, it combines the brains of Blade Runner, the gloss of James Bond, and the sly satire of cult comic 2000AD.
This makes it an astonishingly assured directorial debut by Alex Garland, the novelist turned scriptwriter of Dredd, and 28 Days Later.
Domhnall Gleeson’s expert computer programmer, Caleb, wins an in-house company competition to spend a week with his boss, Oscar Isaac’s reclusive genius.
Nathan lives in an isolated underground home and research facility reached only by helicopter, where the only other occupant is Sonoya Mizuno’s beautiful but mute Japanese servant, Kyoko.
The engagingly geeky Gleeson is cunningly cast while the bearded Isaac is solicitous, funny and quietly menacing as the heavy-drinking megalomaniac Nathan.
Caleb is introduced to Alicia Vikander’s AVA, a semi-transparent chrome and plastic robot with the face and figure of a beautiful woman, designed for the movie by awesome concept artist Jock.
Under surveillance Caleb has to test Ava to establish whether she has achieved a state of artificial intelligence and therefore not a machine.
This would represent a scientific breakthrough of huge significance to Nathan and of great consequence to the world.
Though interrupted by mysterious power cuts, a rapport develops and Ava warns Caleb that Nathan can’t be trusted leading to tension between the men.
Garland provides cracking dialogue but crucially understands when to shut his characters up and let the images tell the story.
Unerringly paced and with an inventive soundscape and bold use of colour it’s very much in the mould of mentor Danny Boyle, at his best.
If Garland is the future of sci-fi then it’s in very safe hands. Unlike Caleb.