Ex Machina (2015)

Ex Machina (2015)
  • Time: 108 min
  • Genre: Drama | Sci-Fi | Thriller
  • Director: Alex Garland
  • Cast: Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander


Caleb, a 24 year old coder at the world’s largest internet company, wins a competition to spend a week at a private mountain retreat belonging to Nathan, the reclusive CEO of the company. But when Caleb arrives at the remote location he finds that he will have to participate in a strange and fascinating experiment in which he must interact with the world’s first true artificial intelligence, housed in the body of a beautiful robot girl.


  • Is A.I (Artificial Intelligence) possible? We’ve all pondered this question many times, and as the world of cinema presents us with a plethora of hypothetical ‘what-if’ scenarios, the questions become more specific; would it be dangerous? How far could it go? Could an A.I experience emotion? All these questions have brought us to the most recent addition in the cinematic ‘Science-Fiction’ universe, Alex Garland’s Ex Machina. With an interesting and surprisingly fresh take on the sci-fi style, how does Garland’s directorial debut contribute to the world of man vs technology?

    Ex Machina follows I.T employee Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson, as he is invited (via contest win) to spend a week in the middle of nowhere with his reclusive boss, technological genius Nathan (played by Oscar Isaac). Nathan’s intention is to have Caleb spending the week studying his latest creation, a creation Nathan claims could be the first conscious artificial intelligence named Ava, played by Alicia Vikander. As the week progresses, and Caleb finds out more about Ava in his conversational sessions with her, he makes some startling discoveries that put Nathan’s true motives in question…

    To start, this film is a wonderfully refreshing take on the ‘sci-fi movie’. Where every other film is seemingly galactic in scope, with spaceships, alien creatures, outer space battles and robots by the thousand, with Ex Machina you get a heavily toned down look into the future with a small cast, a single setting (Nathan’s home/research station) and the only character that uses CG is not even fully computerised (Ava). The film is clearly on a large budget but it feels like a home-movie made with simplicity and a strong sense of material realism, without feeling lazy. The story also wastes ZERO time getting started; within about 10 minutes of film Caleb is introduced to Ava and the primary plot is underway. There is also no specific date or time given, nothing about the world outside of the immediate environment is addressed, besides the occasional movie or quote. This allows us to not have to worry about timescale; this could be happening now or it could be 30 years from now, the film lets us give our own estimation of how far away this is from happening. It’s a very straightforward but brilliantly delivered aspect of the film.

    The acting in this film is excellent. Gleeson, Isaac and Vikander all give excellent performances as the film’s primary 3 characters. Oscar Isaac’s Nathan oozes machismo arrogance, demonstrating himself to be the only guest he needs at his parties. Isaac takes this roles that combines scientific brilliance with a kind of rock star-ish carefree demeanour and underlines it all with a sly, almost aggressive need to control. Domhnall Gleeson’s Caleb is a slightly traditional but very well played character with an understated and subtle performance, at least until the final half hour; here Gleeson unleashes a powerful and memorable finale performance of a torn man unsure of what is genuine and what is artificial. Alicia Vikander is outstanding as Ava; Ava’s curiosity and her artificial emotional changes are excellently realised, her movements and her facial expressions are the perfect balance of human and robotic. You know exactly what Ava is clearly supposed to be thinking, but you never quite know what she is actually thinking and that is the beauty of Vikander’s performance. It is a powerful blend of subtlety and childlike bluntness.

    Garland’s direction is really good! Ex Machina consistently changes its tone to really keep the audience guessing as to how it’s going to continue. From the serious dramatic tension during a security system shutdown (the use of red lights and a serious lack of dialogue is superb) to the lighter more satirical side (a scene where Nathan spontaneously starts up a disco comes to mind), the story and script seldom give you any moments to contemplate on the style before changing it up again. The story gives us a great number of twists and turns, without anything being an obvious giveaway. Garland even addresses the plot turns/twists that we as an audience might have already considered (I admit I had). The finale gives us a strong, unexpected and immensely satisfying conclusion to the building tension between all 3 lead characters.

    One of the primary standout elements of this film is it’s use of dialogue, or lack thereof. As the early scenes rush off pages of expositional necessities, the story seem to gradually trim the dialogue as the story progresses. Some scenes have absolutely no words spoken at all and the 10 minute finale features an estimated maximum of 8 words. Garland demonstrates an excellent understanding of how to use human emotion to guide scenes over words, but then uses dialogue when required. It’s a very solid balance that showcases the fullest spectrum of the cast’s abilities, especially the intense chemistry between Gleeson and Vikander who give us a touching but unpredictable relationship through a glass panel, not visually dissimilar to Silence of the Lambs.

    The soundtrack is really interesting as well, with simplicity to match the visuals, though not much in the way of originality. Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow have written an excellent electronic soundtrack that strikes at the core of what thrillers need in their music. With pulsating toneless synths, light chords and a dreamy quality, fans of the Mass Effect game series soundtracks will likely find enjoyment here. Musically there is not much to offer that hasn’t been heard before, but you’d be lying if you said your heart wasn’t in your throat the moment that slow pulsating synth hit you.

    Overall Ex Machina is an excellent film with a great plot that’s a truly refreshing approach to sci-fi. It’s intelligent without being pretentious and it’s simple without being patronising. The story on the cover is simple, a relationship between a man and a machine, but underneath there are so many underlying themes; it’s a story about such issues as trust in relationships, what love is defined by, science vs man, man’s primal need to control and men’s attitude towards women. This is all told in a excellently simple story about 2 men testing a robot. Garland’s direction is top notch, the acting is superb and the story is pleasantly unpredictable with a fun plot turn saved for the very end. I am shocked that Ex Machina is not up for more awards this Oscar season.

    For fans of Science Fiction, this is an absolute must!


  • Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson (Frank) is selected to take the Turing test on a female A.I. named Ava, created by Nathan, played by Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), who created the largest, most used search software. This is Alex Garland, who is know as the screenwriter for 28 Days Later… and Dredd, makes his directorial debut and what a debut it is.

    Ex-Machina is slow paced, but necessary, when there is a lot to take in, it’s always helpful to keep the pace slow and let the audience process the information and that’s just what it does. Quite frankly it’s a mind f**k of a film, that leaves you guessing on just what is going on. The slow pace only adds to the intensity while you try to work out who is deceiving who, or who is the real subject. The story itself is very original and compelling, leaving you attentive to every scene and every moment.

    For a British film that boasts an English, Irish and Swedish actor/actress, it’s strange how the only character to speak with an English accent is the Swedish actress. This wouldn’t have been much of an issue, had Domhnall Gleeson’s American accent not…
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  • Quickie Review:

    Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is an employee at a tech company who is invited by the CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), for an undisclosed project. When Caleb arrives at Nathan’s estate he finds out that he will be conducting a series of experiments. These are no ordinary tests, he is there to examine the human nature of an A.I. named Ava (Alicia Vikander). Ex Machina, is a grounded sci-fi movie exploring the idea of what makes someone or in this case something, human. While this is not an untouched theme in cinema, the movie blends sci-fi with thriller elements that will keep you constantly on edge. The small cast and close proximity provided a great environment to raise the related philosophical and psychological questions in a deeply engaging manner.

    Full Review:

    Ex Machina, was one of my highly anticipated movies of the year. I have said so in the past that films about A.I. tend to go over the top with its scope. However, here we have a movie that pulls back and concentrates on the characters involved, and they are the best part about the movie.

    With such a small cast of just three it was critical that their on-screen performance carried the movie, and it did. Oscar Isaac was great as the eccentric billionaire genius. One moment he is a friendly outgoing guy, quite often making us laugh at his unconventional behaviour. Yet the next moment you can’t trust him because you feel like he is hiding something from you. Domhnall Gleeson, was our window into this story, he mirrors what we as the audience feel from beginning to the end. The excitement, intrigue, doubt, fear, all these range of emotions are naturally conveyed by Gleeson. As a result you have great frame of reference to experience the character interactions. The biggest surprise for me though was Alicia Vikander. I don’t think anyone recognises her but she should be getting more attention after this role. She walks that delicate line between human and robot effortlessly. She feels like a real human but subtle things like the way her eyes moves, her head tilts, all that add to the almost human characteristics of Ava.

    What makes Ex Machina unique is the scaled down scope of the film. This is not a bombastic action sci-fi, it is more a sci-fi thriller. A character driven story with brilliant performances that always makes you question the motives of everyone. I found myself repeatedly questioning who is the one actually being manipulated. Nathan, Caleb, Ava? There is a sense of unpredictability because up until the end I couldn’t give you a straight answer. The excellent pacing with well written and executed dialogue, had me hooked without ever feeling like a single moment was wasted. If there is one complaint, some may find the ending a little unsatisfying. Obviously I won’t be ruining the ending for you. Still I’d like to argue that considering the tone and scale of the movie, having any other ending would have felt out of place.

    If you are looking for a smart, thought provoking, character driven sci-fi, this is the perfect movie. The cast is of excellent calibre, with Alicia Vikander delivering an impressive A.I. performance. Additionally the gripping plot in an intimate setting helped intensify the thriller aspect of the film. Ex Machina is really worth the watch.

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  • (Ratings: ☆☆ ½ out of 4)

    This film is mildly recommended.

    In brief: A visual treat for the eyes, but the mind is deactivated by a dumb script.

    GRADE: B-

    Why aren’t futuristic robots ever fat and ugly? I just had to ask that question, for whenever I see those female androids in sci-fi movies, they are always stunningly beautiful sleek models of perfection who become clever and resourceful adversaries. That being said, the latest prototype of artificial intelligence is on the market in the indie thriller, Ex Machina.

    Computer genius Caleb (Domhnall Gleason) is send on assignment to work on a top secret project in the isolated home of a wealthy CEO for the company. His boss, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), has a specific project in mind: an A.I. that he has created and named Ava (Alicia Vikander). Ava is two thirds human parts (face, hands and feet) and one third metal and plastic, but very well-put-together, so much so that IKEA would like the patent.

    Of course, we already sense the foreboding danger before Caleb does. Writer / Director Alex Garland sets up that fact all too obviously with the physical fortress-like setting, its eerie lighting, and the actions of both Nathan and Ava from the outset. Been here, seen that before.

    Taking that well-worn successful formula of man’s endless obsession with the bots and the bots displaying conflicting human emotion, as was the conceit of Jonzes’ film her and Spielberg’s A.I., Garland’s film never engages its viewer emotionally. There is a nagging remoteness, not only in the fabricated Ava, but in the human characters as well. As written, Nathan and Caleb are suppose to be highly intelligent men, but their actions are self-destructive and juvenile from the get-go. The actors, who do yeomanlike work, should not be faulted, but the four character script surely can garner its share of the blame. (Sonoya Mizuno plays Nathan’s mute geisha servant who supplies the frontal nudity to keep the audience awake.) The dialog is an endless existential debate about our humanity (of lack thereof) and it gets rather tedious awful fast.

    Garfield the Writer has larger issues he wants to tackle, but the film breaks down to a “them vs. us” mentality rather quickly. The “shocking” reveals and twists aren’t very surprising or satisfying. Everyone acts strange throughout. But there is strange, and there is STRANGE and without logical characters and actions at play, there is no basis for credibility or interest.

    However, Garfield the Director has created a wonderful look for his film. He efficiently uses reflections in mirrors and glass to give Ex Machina a hallucinatory unearthly feel. The art design works overtime to hide the sci-fi failings of the script. Kudos to the art direction of for Mark Digby, Michelle Day, and Katrina Mackay and Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury’s dissonant music score which adds a nice atmospheric touch and keeps the tension there.

    While the film is visually exciting to watch, Ex Machina is a hollow replicant of so many other sci-fi droid movies. Its surface is shiny and polished, but there is nothing at its core.

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  • Ex Machina does not break any new ground as far as science fiction stories about artificial intelligence go and it presents an argument for and against it without a resolution as if we will be subjected to a sequel. If there is one, I hope it’s more carefully thought out.
    What is consciousness and how do we know it is present? That is the whole premise of this movie written and directed by Alex Garland. Basically, it’s where did the terminator come from and no matter how well dressed the movie is, it is still just a rehash of what’s been said before. Garland at least gives us some good suspense near the end with multiple possibilities but he doesn’t take any of them. The story heads, in it’s inevitable way, to the end you saw coming half way through the film. As a director Garland makes other somewhat strange choices for locations. If it is a real place, it’s amazing but not conducive to the kind of experimentation the has been done. Building this structure would be a staggeringly difficult architectural feat. Supplying the materials, both for living and experimenting, would require an army of people with easy access. I don’t care how rich you are, you can’t do it alone. Believability broke down and never really recovered. Garland, as both writer and director, has to accept responsibility.
    The characters aren’t much better. In trying to add some suspense with the character Nathan, played by Oscar Isaac, Garland has made him into an inconsistent cypher. What does he know? How much does he know? Is he really getting blackout drunk every night when something as important as the current situation is happening? To the very end of the film this character’s choices are stupid and don’t reflect the brilliant man he’s supposed to be which left me waiting for a big reveal that never happened.
    Domhnall Gleeson plays Caleb and the character has the benefit of ignorance. This character is also inconsistent by the end of the movie, changed into something he could never have been only a few days before. I can see there being a change in the character but not such a reversal with what he knows. And the character isn’t stupid. He knows what he’d be in for.
    Alicia Vikander’s Ava is the only character I could believe which is kind of ironic. It all seemed very much as if Garland were trying to make her so human that he allowed the others to almost slip into caricatures rather than loose Ava as a convincing character. But in order to make Ava’s actions work he had to make the other two more than a little stupid.
    These three are it for this movie. All the other characters in it are props or plot devices. The three actors try very hard to make this film believable but the writing defeats them over and over again.
    I give this movie 1 computer program out of 4. I can’t go lower because there was hope near the end but it was dashed soon enough. The locations are spectacular but how they function is a mystery. This is an example of a movie that really needed someone else to direct it so another brain might have adjusted some of the problems and made a better movie.

  • The opening moments of writer Alex Garland’s directorial debut Ex Machina call to mind Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker’s exceptional anthology series that is a darkly satirical exploration of the often destructive ways technology has tentacled itself in the DNA of modern society. Its first episode, “The National Anthem,” revolved around a lose-lose decision for the British Prime Minister: have live sex with a pig on national television or a kidnapped princess will be killed. Its fourth episode, “Be Right Back,” offered a grieving widow a chance to stay in touch with her deceased husband via an online service that virtually recreates people by using all of their past online activity. It was an achingly conflicted riff on the Frankenstein tale with Domhnall Gleeson as the clone who only exists to serve its master.

    Gleeson once again wades into man versus machine waters in Ex Machina, this time dealing with the seemingly not so monstrous making of another man, an internet search engine billionaire named Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Gleeson’s programmer Caleb wins an opportunity to spend a week at the secluded estate of his boss. From the moment Caleb steps off the helicopter and onto the lushly verdant land, the Island of Dr. Moreau atmosphere signals this is no ordinary holiday. Nathan has created an A.I. named Ava (Alicia Vikander), and he wants Caleb to conduct the Turing Test (named for Alan Turing, the protagonist of The Imitation Game), an examination to determine if Ava’s thought process and behaviour is distinguishable from that of a human being. Thus commences the film proper as Caleb and Ava meet for daily sessions under the ever-watchful eye of Nathan.

    The main complication of the test, of course, is Ava herself. Sleek and graceful, she is a being composed of biomechanical limbs, a translucent shell in which her wiring is visible, and the most exquisite of faces. It becomes all too clear that Caleb’s increasing fascination with her runs deeper than mere coder’s curiosity. The soft whirr of her internal machinery almost serves as a siren song for Caleb, who is so enamoured with her wit, intelligence, and human consciousness that he calls into question his own grip on reality. The fact that this particular scene is suspenseful and ominous is a credit to how Ex Machina toys with one’s expectations. There is a transparency to the film – so many things are hidden in plain sight – and yet one is never quite certain of what is about to unfold.

    Garland, whose screenplay for Never Let Me Go also meditated on similar themes, is in striking distance of perfection, and works wonders with what is essentially a series of limitations. For while Ex Machina is at its core a chamber piece, it never falls into the claustrophobic. Nathan’s home, with its warren of glass walls interrupted by rocks and boulders, is a marvel of minimalist design on the part of production designer Mark Digby. Cinematographer Rob Hardy’s camera glides from one space to another. It bears repeating what brilliant work Digby, Hardy, and Garland do here. The framing and composition, the manner in which space is used, the movement of the actors within that space – all of these work in concert to convey the multiple power plays between the characters.

    Sonoya Mizuno puts in a strong impression as Nathan’s silent and mysterious servant. She and Isaac engage in a delightfully out of left field dance number that brings a modicum of levity to a relationship that strongly hints at Nathan’s capacity for cruelty. Isaac and Gleeson continue their run of remarkable performances, but Ex Machina belongs to Vikander, the Swede whose talent surpasses her exceeding beauty. There is a specific physicality required for Ava, just that touch of the unnatural which Vikander well-embodies, but this performance is all about her face as it registers a myriad of finespun emotions. One can sense the mechanics as she considers not only every word that comes out of Gleeson’s mouth, but also every utterance that comes out of hers. Vikander listens, an act far more complex than one would think. Sensual and immaculate, she absolutely soars as Ava and poises herself to be an invaluable talent that should grace the cinema for many years to come.

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  • Alex Garland opens and closes Ex Machina on shots of human bodies in varying degrees of substantiality, some firm, some phantom reflections. Like any story about Artificial Intelligence, the film is about what distinguishes the human — and how human we are at this point in social history and science. Spoiler alert: not very. We’re losing our humanity in our retreat from human relationships into high tech insularity and soulless ambition.
    Like any story about man aspiring to a god-like power to create life, from Frankenstein to robotics, the measure of the human is the fullest realization of the human, not its transcendence. Trying to be more than human makes you less. We need humility and acceptance to be fully human.
    Super-scientist Nathan is less than human when he creates his unnatural creatures, instead of living the normal human life of romance, relationships, sex and reproduction. His brilliance turns into evil. Because he thinks all our lives are programmed, whether by nature or nurture, he arrogates the right to program his subjects’ lives.
    In the lonely nerd Caleb he thinks he has found a suitable gull, but Caleb’s seduction by Ava proves Nathan’s undoing. Ava highjacks the relationship Nathan planned for Caleb, in order to escape both men’s control. Ava takes over her maker’s plan the way she assumes the limbs and skin of his other models, asserting her will and breaking free not just from her maker’s control but from her besotted saviour’s as well.
    The title derives from the theatrical term for a superhuman resolution to a play, that like a machine from the heavens arrives magically to solve all the characters’ problems. Here the playfully literal machine is the helicopter that delivers Caleb to Nathan’s Edenic retreat and sweeps Ava off to unsuspecting civilization at the end. But there are two metaphoric plays on the device. Nathan’s plan to create a new form of life is his attempt to produce a happy ending — for himself, not necessarily the world. The power of film, another machinery, is imaged in the framing shots of the spectrum of human substance.
    The plot is weighted in Biblical and literary references. Ava is the new first woman, a technological advance upon Eve. Caleb recalls the spy Moses sent to report back from the promised land (here the Canaan of high tech). Nathan recalls the prophet who inveighed against King David, here a mad scientist maddened by ambition and the power his internet company has given him to harness all its users’ minds. These allusions draw on the Bible’s function of defining the origins of our social system. Here they augur our world to come.
    For currency the film situates itself in the matrix of modern art. Nathan uses his Pollock painting to promote the principle of unthinking spontaneity, but only in order to lower Caleb’s defences against Ava’s manipulation. He doesn’t really believe in mindless action; he’s a coder. His Blue Book search engine company is named after Wittgenstein’s journal and the Klimt painting we see is of Wittgenstein’s sister. Wittgenstein signifies three things. Though not an architect he designed a house in fastidious detail, as Nathan has done here. He’s a key figure in the post-modernist denial of fixed meaning. And he argued the impossibility of certainty in understanding language — again, one of Nathan’s arguments and strategies.
    The film allusions to Star Trek, Ghostbusters, It’s A Wonderful Life, etc., and the ubiquitous cameras and videotaping recall other treatments of the themes of humanity and emotional vulnerability and remind us of the film’s film-hood. This film is an artifice about the convincing artifice made to emulate life. The film is like Ava and vice versa. Caleb is a bright coder and a good man — which leaves him susceptible to seduction by a fantasy of life and love, whether in the body of a robot or in the imagery of a film. The prototypal film, of course, is Plato’s allegory of the cave, which is described in the Mary’s Room story here and is imaged in the shadow play that introduces Ava’s appearance amid human traffic.
    Perhaps the film draws on an even deeper myth in our culture — our fear of the feminine. Eve, after all, is our first woman only because the more rebellious and independent Lillith was expelled from our mythology. Ava is the new Lillith. Here what begins as an ostensible victory by a male office nerd turns into the triumph of a fabricated woman’s body, equipped with the power of female sexuality. The film may seem to be about the triumph of new robotics but it’s really the archetypal unleashing of the woman’s indomitable sexual power. Of course, it’s the male imagination that envisions the projection of evil as female. A less frightened sensibility would find in the feminine power the fulfillment of humanity, not its doom.

  • In his directorial debut, writer Alex Garland mixes simple storytelling with high concepts such as artificial intelligence, sexuality and data retention to make a powerful beautiful film. The combination of beautiful images and insanely good acting and you make a definite impact with your first film.

    Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a programmer for a popular search engine known as Bluebook. One day Caleb wins a prize of going to stay with his elusive boss Nathan (Oscar Isaac) for a week. Once he gets there, Caleb discovers that his true purpose is to conduct a Turing test on Ava (Alicia Vikander), a female robot created by Nathan that will change artificial intelligence forever. It is when Caleb discovers that Nathan brought him there for darker reasons than he thought, Caleb starts to question what exactly is going on.

    Garland’s story is very slow-burning, but at the same time your attention is being held completely. The simple narrative of two men and a robot is engaging, as Ava plays Nathan and Caleb off of one another. Indeed the changing relationship and power balance the two men go through is a remarkable thing to watch. Caleb enters this world vulnerable, but once he thinks he learns everything there is to know, his perceived power in his relationship with Nathan is fundamentally changed.

    The very topical subject of mass surveillance is being looked at here, as Ava’s programming allows her to get her intelligence from looking at what everyone is searching for on the internet. This multiplies the idea of people looking at what we are doing in the digital world by having a single all knowing machine looking at our digital footprints.

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  • Movie : Ex-Machina
    Genre : Sci-fi / Drama
    Rating : Excellent 4.5/5

    Now this movie is one of a hell of its kind. The trailer was alluring that it should have been your watchlist for this year. Ex-Machina does well in grabbing your attention right from the beginning till the end and that is the beauty of the powerful script.

    A advance programmer is selected by an eccentric genius to perform classical turing test of artificial intelligence on a humanoid robot, AVA. If the test passes, it will be the first break-through in the history of AI.

    First time director, Alex Garland , who has been a novelist of several critically acclaimed films like 28 Days Later and The Beach , is also credited as a writer for this film. The debutant director will surprise you with a flawless script which is tight and crispy and will keep you at bay. The direction is impeccable and strives for excellence in each scene. The movie rolls out with a slow and steady pace unraveling the mystery as you go deep inside the story. It does raise the question of right and wrong for a humanoid robot who is progrmmatically embedded to think like a human being. The movie is shot at the exotic locations capturing the minute details of beautiful landscape of Norway. Art direction is spellbinding. Background score is soothing. Performances by the leads- Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander is enriching and applauding.

    Ex-Machina is stylish and visually polished piece of work with dazzling performances.

    – Ketan

  • “The challenge is not to act automatically. It’s to find an action that is not automatic. From painting, to breathing, to talking, to f*cking. To falling in love… ”

    Something that really fascinates me, is whether we’ll ever be able to develop artificial intelligence. Each film about this subject gets my complete attention anyway and can count on my unconditional enthusiasm. I don’t know why and what attracts me the most in those movies. Is it just curiosity about the question if someone will ever succeed in developing such a machine? Will artificial intelligence cause the downfall of humanity as some prominent scientists profess (Hawking for instance claims this) ? Is such a self-discursive machine capable of showing real feelings and respond in a human way? And after seeing the packaging of this artificially intelligent creature, which looked enormously appetizing to me, the whole spectacle couldn’t go wrong anyway.

    The list of movies with this topic is fairly extensive: from “Blade Runner” to “AI”, “I Robot” and “Short Circuit”, “Robocop” and recently “Chappie”. Even Pixar’s “Wall-E” fits in this list. Recent movies I liked the most were “The Machine” and of course “Her”. In this last movie it’s a sultry, seductive voice that represents the philosophy of AI. Unfortunately, most films contain excellent material for the prophets of doom in this world to say that AI isn’t exactly something we’re waiting for. Usually it goes horribly wrong and the creation turns against its human designer in order to get the balance of power tilted into its direction. I think this is the ultimate proof of AI but at the same time I don’t think it’s supposed to end that way. “Ex Machina” is no exception to this rule.

    It all starts when Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) receives an e-mail at the end of the week saying that he has won a sleepover at his boss’s residence. The moment he arrives on the immense estate and enters the modern underground house of Nathan (Oscar Isaac), he doesn’t know that he has been selected to submit the latest creation from Nathan to extensive testing. He’s introduced to Ava (Alicia Vikander), designed by the eccentric billionaire, and he must investigate during 5 days, using a Turing test, if Ava actually expresses and uses human feelings. But nothing is what is seems and at some point you’re really wondering who’s on the test bench! Looking at this movie in its entirety, you won’t easily conclude that this is a low budget film and that they succeeded, despite the low budget, in creating an impressive environment and atmosphere. The ultra-modern property of Nathan comes with high-tech gadgets and looks tight , sober, cold and sterile with an ingenious verification system, design furniture scattered around and ambient lighting which is activated automatically or via voice control. There’s an internal video monitoring system and apparently a fortune was spent on the power supply, although occasionally the system is failing. And then there is the phenomenon Ava who eerily resembles a wandering robot, even though you realize it’s played by an actress, complete with arms with sophisticated wiring and a skull with partly a humanly face and a kind of electronic system. The way the brain looks like and works is something I’ve never seen so far in SF. It demonstrates an original approach to the effective development of AI.

    The next issue are the performances. This is naturally limited to the three main characters: Nathan, Caleb and Ava. Oscar Isaac manages to portray Nathan in a very convincing way. A phenomenal intellectual character who has separated itself from civilization. This complete isolation has caused quite some bizarre features. From the outset, you have the feeling there’s something wrong and Nathan takes a menacing pose. His unpredictable moods, the alcohol consumption and the rather perverse sexual fantasies transform this genius into an unstable-looking person. The alleged prizewinner Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson who previously starred in “About time”, seems to have a rational mind, but eventually appears to be rather naive. The dialogues between him and Nathan are on a high philosophical level and include mostly the resulting gaps after creating artificial life. Caleb also has highly interesting conversations with Ava. And Ava impressed me the most. Alicia Vikander, a professional ballet dancer, succeeds in (with the use of CGI) looking like a real human-like cyborg. The astonished facial expression and prudent movements are some of the most sublime performances that makes her believable as Ava.

    What remains is the storyline and plot used in this SF. Undeniably, it’s a psychological thriller in which everyone apparently has a hidden secret agenda, full of secrets and manipulative motives. And to be honest, the ending was a bit of a disappointment. However, the run up is magnificent, despite some considerations. At first it seems implausible to me that Nathan, despite his intellectual level, could develop something like Ava completely on his own. That means he’s also a master in other branches of natural science (chemistry, mechanics, electronics, biochemistry …). And I suppose he knows the laws of Isaac Asimov. Shouldn’t he consider these and take his precautions ? As in “Her” we witness a relationship between a human and a semi-human, except that Ava uses the highlighting of her female forms in her favor. And Ava uses these qualities just like women all over the world do to achieve their goal. I’m sure that’s true AI !

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