A computer programmer is assigned to test an artificial intelligent being in Ex Machina. Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is programmer working for the world’s largest search engine Bluebook. Caleb wins a company lottery and is flown to the isolated home of Bluebook’s CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Nathan has developed an artificial intelligent robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander) and he assigns Caleb to perform the “Turing test” on her to see how sentient she truly is.
Ex Machina is the directorial debut for Alex Garland, who has previously been known as a screenwriter for films such as 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Dredd. For this first feature, Garland chose a subject that is quite well known in the science fiction pathos – that of sentient artificial intelligence. While this is far from a new topic, dating as far back as Blade Runner and as recently as The Machine, there are still some interesting things that can be said about artificial intelligence. In fact, as stated at one point in the film, it only a matter of time when, not if, artificial intelligence will turn from science fiction to science fact.
Ex Machina is a relatively intimate and isolated film, with Celeb, Nathan, Ava, and Nathan’s silent Japanese servant Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno) being the only characters for most of the film. The film is built around a series of sessions Caleb has with Ava, over the course of a week, in which he determines whether she is actually expressing human emotions or merely simulating them. Like many science fiction stories of this ilk, one or more characters have ulterior motives, which allows a level of distrust to build, leading to a eventual showdown.
Ex Machina is a relatively low budget affair, with the only real special effects being Ava’s look, which involves a human face on a robotic body. Swedish actress Alicia Vikander plays Ava as a robot, who acts human, yet there’s something very artificial about her. As for the human characters, Oscar Isaac continues to show how much of a chameleon he is on screen, since I have yet to see him play the same type of character twice. With a shaved head and bushy beard, Nathan immediately comes off as somebody who is not exactly that trustworthy. Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb is essentially playing the role of the everyman, who finds himself an outsider in Nathan’s world.
One very pleasing fact about Ex Machina is how this sometimes dark science fiction story is marked with moments of humour. In fact, one of the most unexpected, yet very enjoyable, moments of the film has Nathan suddenly beginning to disco dance with Kyoko, which comes off as both confusing and fascinating. Also, while I had a rough idea of where the plot of Ex Machina was heading, I still found myself quite satisfied with the results.
While there are no shortage of films about sentient A.I. beings, I still thought that Ex Machina was a pretty great version of this story.★ ★ ★ ★ ★ | LOVED IT