I recently managed to see Ex Machina in my local cinema before it’s run ended and here are some hopefully non-spoiler comments on the movie. I may follow up with a more spoiler-flavoured post at a later stage.
Ex Machina is a movie I knew nothing about until a couple of months ago. I caught the trailer on youtube and I was immediately intrigued and became very keen to see it.
It has three main characters, indeed you could call it a three-handler as the vast majority of the movie features just those three characters interacting in one location.
Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson, is a young programmer who wins a prize to meet his boss Nathan, played by Oscar Isaac. Nathan is the founder of a search engine called Bluebook which has made him an important figure in 21st century computing and technology. But he’s a hard man to reach as he chooses to live and work alone in the middle of a vast wilderness (which it is implied he owns).
It turns out Caleb has been brought out to Nathan’s lab as the human part of a Turing test so see if Nathan’s new robotic creation has AI – artificial intelligence.
That creation is Ava, played wonderfully by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander. Ava is one of the most perfectly realised screen robots I’ve seen in a movie. A big part of it is Vikander’s graceful performance and body language. She displays apparently human emotions but they are accompanied with slightly robotic movements. The other part of Ava’s unique look is the transparent limbs and lower torso. These have been achieved by cgi but I soon just accepted I was looking at a semi-transparent robot. It’s a truly good use of cgi as it’s not flashy, it’s just there and totally convincing.
Caleb is introduced to Ava and begins a series of daily “sessions” interacting with her. He soon becomes attracted to her and then questions Nathan why he gave the robot female looks and apparent sexuality. Is it a case of the magician’s attractive assistant distracting the audience from his sleight of hand, Caleb wonders.
Soon Caleb begins to distrust the heavy-drinking and egotistical Nathan. And he fears for what will happen to Ava at the end of the test. Ava asks if she will be switched off. Celeb says it’s not up to him. Ava’s response is one of my favourite lines in the movie: “Why is it up to anyone?”
Alex Garland (who among other things wrote the Karl Urban Dredd movie screenplay) directs from his own script and has made a thoughtful, intelligent “proper” science fiction movie. I say “proper” in the sense that this is a story that uses a science fiction element, explores it and questions the implications of it. I’m pleased that a movie can be made that basically just has three characters in one location and still be intellectuality exciting and critically acclaimed.
It’s a movie that I have thought a lot about after seeing it and it’s one I look forward to re-watching when it comes out on home release.
As noted before I may write another “spoiler” post about the movie.