Alex Garland delivers an unforgettable sci-fi film in his directorial début; which will not only entertain but also have you questioning your moral choices.
Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander lead the cast in this account of meetings between human and A. I. (Artificial Intelligence). Caleb (Gleeson) works as a computer coder and has just won first prize in a competition at his company, and will get to spend five days on the estate of the company’s owner Nathan (Isaac), something not many people get to witness. However after arriving at the simplistic yet futuristic house of his boss, Nathan reveals that the real purpose for Caleb being here is so that he can test his new A. I., Ava (Vikander). The Turing Test is set up to determine whether a human can be engaging with an A. I. and come to the conclusion that they are actually conversing with another human, if they believe that they are then the test is a success. This is usually done with a wall between the human and A. I. however, what Nathan wants to find out is whether the test can be successful after Caleb has had numerous encounters with Ava, and believe that she does in fact have a living consciousness inside her. As Nathan says, they will be writing history.
Caleb gets to know Ava more and more, her human-like personality and the way she talks makes him get lost in what it is he is really trying to find out, and his mission turns in to aiding Ava with what she desires most…freedom.
Just like horror films, sci-fi films can sometimes be hit and miss, as you are never sure if you are going to get a good one or not. Ex Machina just goes to show that you don’t need huge effects and amazing spaceships to make a truly great sci-fi, all it takes is a simple location, some convincing portrayals and a gripping script. Speaking of the script, it was just the right amount of science. In a film of this nature there is always the chance of losing a viewer, or at least confusing them, in the explanation of the science behind it. Ex Machina gives you just the right amount, by explaining itself, but in terms which the majority, if not all, of the audience can understand.
As you watch Caleb and Ava converse every day and get to know each other better, you begin to put yourself in Caleb’s shoes, questioning to yourself what you would do in this situation; stay true to your intellect and simply do the job you were put there for, or sympathise with Ava and decide what is morally right. Is it right to keep an A. I. which is so lifelike and appears to feel real emotions locked up, is it just a machine or a life-form, where do you draw the line between A. I. and human. These are the questions that Ex Machina has you questioning as you watch.
Domhnall Gleeson’s convincing American accent and depiction of the, in some ways, typical 20-something year old man help the audience to side with him, as they may see something of themselves in the choices he makes. Whereas Gleeson’s character has a slight scientific view to the situation, it is sometimes clouded in sympathy towards Ava. That is why the only other main human figure in the film is, in some ways, the opposite. Oscar Isaac’s role as the incredibly smart, yet comedic and laid-back avid dance floor fanatic Nathan, clashes with Gleeson’s character on many occasions as he attempts to show him the reality of the situation; who is human and who is not. Alicia Vikander steals the show in Ex Machina though as the A. I. unit which you just can’t help feel remorse for. Although some incredible effects are used to give her appearance, it is Vikander’s pure talents that convince the viewer of what she is, her android type movements mixed with her cheerful, and at times, sombre persona convince the audience that they are genuinely witnessing a being in need of help.
Ex Machina is every bit the meaning of the genre ‘ science fiction’, and has gained its place next to such greats as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner and Prometheus.
Ex Machina is on wide theatrical release in UK cinemas now.