Ex Machina

Ex Machina

The story begins peering over the computer monitor of our protagonist Caleb, one of many programmers for a major tech company. To his astonishment he has won a lottery to work with the brilliant visionary and reclusive owner of the company, simply introduced as Nathan.

As part of the opportunity, Caleb is brought to Nathan’s research facility located deep in the wilderness. He soon learns he was brought here to test the artificial intelligence Nathan has created, as a human component in a sort of modified Turing test.

Caleb is designated to interact with the AI (Ava) to determine whether or not she functions completely as a human despite her mechanical composition. He is immediately enthralled by Ava and her very existence. Ava is a marvel of scientific achievement and unlike anything the world has ever seen. Despite the fact that she mostly appears to be robotic, she moves and engages in such a natural way with a full spectrum of emoting facial features and mannerisms that Caleb slowly becomes drawn to her innocence as if she were a living, breathing, human being, and a woman.

There was great work done by writer/ director Alex Garland to create a sense of unease, and a timely unfolding of the mystery throughout the film. It starts right in the beginning with the secluded compound, only accessible by helicopter. This is already giving you an indication that you are left with no way out if something were to go wrong.

The compound itself is exactly what you would expect a billionaire to build – a modern aesthetic, glass walls, and a Jackson Pollack painting on the wall. Aside from Nathan, the building is desolate, devoid of any warmth, with bright lighting in long concrete halls, filled with a generally mysterious and secretive tone.

This ominous feeling is no more evident than when you observe Nathan’s fitful demeanour that moves from a depressed drunkard to an invigorated and excited health nut overnight. He is clearly damaged by his extreme solitude and singular focus on his lonely work.

There was also fantastic work in creating a robot that was simultaneously evidently rigid and mechanical but also free-thinking and natural. The look of Ava is so familiar but in an unfamiliar context – with a human face and such fluid graceful movements that it is initially startling. _____________________________________________________________________________________Ex Machina features some stellar performances, specifically from Oscar Isaac as Nathan and Alicia Vikander as Ava.

Nathan is inherently an interesting character being a charismatic, genius, tech billionaire and prodigy with a top secret research facility where he singlehandedly created the first true artificial intelligence. Isaac played the emotionally erratic character thoughtfully and with considerable focus on details from the cadence of his voice to his constant shifting between a snappy laid back personality and a depressed drinker. There were even some great moments of dark humour.

Alicia Vikander gave a wonderfully nuanced performance as the artificial intelligence, Ava. It was not like a traditional performance as a robot, laden with tropes like an uninspired curious head tilt or a typical robotic voice. Each miniscule movement and facial expression was powerful and demonstrated both a reservation and passion that defines this human-like machine.ex machina screenshot

Domhnall Gleeson’s character Caleb on the other hand was not particularly interesting and felt simply like a piece to progress the story. It didn’t feel like a bad performance by Gleeson at all, but rather a normal character without any sort of unique and magnetic characteristics.

SUMMARY

Ex Machina is like a slowly receding fog, revealing the mystery at a gradual pace to maintain an ominous and unsettling feeling that leads to a disturbing climax.

The smart choices made by Isaac and Vikander, and first time director Alex Garland made this film feel unique by taking a fascinating written and visual perspective as well as developing an engaging story despite the common subject.

It is a cerebral and though provoking experience that elicits thoughts not only about the ingredients of a true Artificial Intelligence, but what defines a human being.

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