Written by Alex Garland (scribe of 2002 infected zombie thriller 28 Days Later), Ex Machina also marks his auspicious directorial debut.
The film opens with Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a milquetoast office worker at the fictional tech behemoth BlueBook; he has just won a Willie Wonka-esque ‘golden ticket’ to an undisclosed, remote location. The ticket comes courtesy of Oscar Isaac, who plays Jay, the wunderkind (in the style of a Steve Jobs) owner of the company. Caleb’s prize as it were, is to interrogate the ‘game-changing’ AI prototype Jay has created, Ava (Alicia Vikander, who reminds me of an updated version of Maschinenmensch from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis). The objective is simple – to see if Ava can pass the Turig Test, in which the computer’s behavior is examined to determine if it is indistinguishable from that of a human being.
What first starts off as a set of sessions, becomes increasingly complex and complicated to the point that you as an audience member, feel uncertain about the true intentions, motivations or actions carried out by any of the characters, both human and artificial human.
From the outset, the plot moves along at a deliberately slow, almost haunting pace, only pick up and hit the audience with a couple of curveballs before coming to a clever, if not partially predictable conclusion that still managed to leave me with an “Oh Sh*t” expression on my face.
At times as we were building up to the denouement, I felt I had entered a cold and isolated world with echoes of a Stanley Kubrick project.
Overall the film is a confident, bold statement with the look and feel of a veteran auteur. Great job, Mr. Garland.
As I watch Gleeson’s performance, I did have a moment of déjà vu with respect to the whole man and machine scenario; only this time the roles were reversed – check out Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror episode Be Right Back as a point of reference.
Have no fear, it is not all doom and gloom – interspersed among an increasing sense of impending disaster are welcomed moments of levity. That said, Ex Machina also does an entertaining job of raising larger questions about the morality of creating a facsimile of humanity, via a series of wires and mechanical synapses. But at its heart, it’s still definitely a taut sci-fi nightmare that will keep you intrigued until the end.
Since mine is a rather late review of the film so it may be difficult to find Ex Machina in your local cinema (it is playing in many multiplexes). But know that if you miss it in the theaters, the BluRay/DVD will be released July 14th.
Have you seen this or are you interested in seeing it? Share your thoughts!