This film was written and directed by Alex Garland, the screenwriter of '28 Days Later' about the not-too-distant future of AI (artificial intelligence). His directorial debut, this stylish cerebral thriller is bound to put him on the map with the greats of the film industry.
Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a coder at one of the world's largest internet facilities wins a competition to spend a week at the private mountain retreat of the reclusive CEO of the company, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). He's dropped off at a remote location which is as far as the helicopter will go and has to walk the rest of the way guided by the river he must follow.
Meeting the CEO is daunting enough, but shrouded in this isolation and austere abode which looks more like a facility than a home, it's no wonder Caleb is on tenterhooks. However, Nathan puts his mind at rest and wants to be treated just like one of the boys. He confirms that this house of his was more research facility than home and if Caleb wanted to know more, he had to sign his life away with a non-disclosure.
As part of his 'win', Caleb is to participate in an experiment where he must interact with an artificial intelligence housed in the body of a beautiful female robot, Ava (Alicia Vikander). He is the human component in a Turing Test; in short, he's to evaluate the capabilities and ultimately the consciousness of Ava. The success of this evaluation is measured by the fact that he's unable to distinguish machine from another human being by using the replies to questions put to both.
During the course of this assessment with the breathtaking Ava, whose emotional intelligence proves more sophisticated than the two men could have imagined, Caleb's mind gets a bit clouded. It becomes difficult to decipher between woman and machine, especially when the emotions are involved. In this isolated facility, he no longer knows what is true and what is false, what is real and what is experimental. He can only go with his gut instinct, but what if it's wrong? I give this movie a 9 out of 10.
Ex_Machina explores the nature of consciousness, emotion, sexuality, truth and lies. It's smart, stylish, cerebral and seductive. It has more layers than we could imagine. For instance, according to trivia, the title derives from the Latin phrase 'Deus Ex-Machina', meaning 'a God From the Machine', a phrase that originated in Greek tragedies. When Caleb alludes to the fact that only Gods can create new life, it's right that the three main characters all have appropriate biblical names. Ava is a form of Eve, the first woman, Nathan was a prophet in the court of David, and Caleb was a spy sent into a new land by Moses.
You can read all this trivia on the IMDb website, but I challenge you to refrain from going through the whole list, and to definitely NOT read the spoilers if you wan't to view this movie in its pure form. Give your mind the chance to wade through its content and challenge it to work it out for itself without being spoon fed and experience and enjoy the genius that it is. By all means come back and read the trivia which will only add to the experience in finding out the deep layers behind the thought process of this intelligent movie.
I'm not generally the science fiction type but this movie had me engaged. Its pacing, slow in parts served to intensify the feeling of isolation and remoteness of the facility. Domhnall Gleeson is probably the only person they could have chosen to play that slightly geeky, nerdy and innocent character that he was. He does it so well, and Oscar Isaac is quite charismatic as the confident, slightly crazy genius living in isolation that you're never quite sure of as to whether he's friend or foe.
In Melbourne this film is exclusive to Cinema Nova where I do believe all good movies live. Don't forget cheapskate Mondays at Nova when all films are only $6 until 4pm. With Brunetti just outside the door, you could really make an occasion of it with their delicious hot Italian chocolate and a pastry or their lunch time pastas to warm and comfort you on a gloomy cold and wet day.
Check out the official movie website where you can have an 'Ava' session.