Review: Ex_Machina

ex-machina-poster

Alex Garland’s directorial debut comes on the heels of writing credits on DreddNever Let Me GoSunshine and 28 Days Later a couple of which deal with some of the themes dealt with in Ex_Machina.

Domhnall Gleeson’s character, Caleb, wins a competition to visit the owner of the company he works for at his secluded estate for a week. He works for Blue Book, a search engine company founded by Oscar Isaacs’ character, Nathan.

Caleb arrives by helicopter – after flying across glaciers, thick woodland and a quick hike – to the front door of a high-tech and labyrinthine bunker owned by Nathan. After signing a non-disclosure agreement not to tell anyone anything about what he sees at the installation Nathan tells Caleb that he is to take part in a Turing Test on an A.I. robot he has created.

The test – named after Alan Turing, see The Imitation Game –  is designed to conclude whether or not a computer can exhibit behaviour intelligent enough to trick a human into forgetting that they are interacting with a construct rather than another human being. So, Caleb sits in a room separated from the robot, Ava (Alicia Vikander), by a glass partition and ask it questions. ‘It’ is constantly referred to as ‘her’ as Nathan has designed Ava to resemble a female because, as he explains, there’s no reason for interaction between two things/people if there is no physical stimulus involved.

It quickly emerges that things aren’t quite what they seem. Isaacs’ character is very suspect from the start, he seems to be trying very hard to act like a normal human being when conversing with Caleb. Caleb himself is in a very alien situation and isn’t exactly coping with Nathan’s duplicitous personality mixed with the confusing feelings he is experiencing day after day with, from and for Ava.

Alicia Vikanders has the hardest part to play of all three main characters, only her face, hands and feet are hers, the rest of her body is either see-through, exposing her inner workings, or covered in some sort of membrane. As well as acting like a robot, she is also trying to be a robot mimicking human emotions to the point where the two blur. Her movements are nuanced just right, where they look almost like human motion with a touch of automaton artifice. This is heightened by the art departments achievements, with amazing visual effects and sound design, every movement is accompanied by soft, whirring, gyroscopic sounds.

This three-hander is incredibly gripping and fairly complex, even though it owes a lot to B-movie sci-fi tropes that are used in abundance. All three actors get a chance to give layered performances as none of them are exactly what they seem to be and there really isn’t much to choose between them.

Ex_Machina is a tense roller-coaster of a thriller that has no trace of fat on it at all, with a running time of only 107 minutes where a lot happens. This film is well worth your money and raises some interesting questions about the internet, morality, artificial intelligence, the future of technology and the future of the human race to name but a few. If you like sci-fi, you’ll love this film.

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