Written and directed by Alex Garland. Stars Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac.
A man wins a corporate lottery and meets with the secluded CEO of his company: a man who has allegedly created a true AI. It’s up to the employee to see if this is true.
I love movies with a small amount of characters and only one or few locations. I love movies that explore the story through scene build-ups and not through exposition. I love when movies can remain nerdy “what ifs” but with the seriousness of brainy movies. I love when movies don’t go the easy Hollywood route and strives to stay away from tropes or manipulates their uses to subvert expectations. Ex Machina is in that weird spot where it covers nearly everything I like about movies.
More importantly, it features visuals at time on par with Beyond the Black Rainbow. That can only be good.
I really don’t want to say much about the movie because I want you to discover it for yourself. Caleb is a young programmer at Bluebook, a social networking and search engine that is an obvious take on Google’s overreaching grasp on all things internet. He wins an internal lottery to meet with Nathan, the big boss. There he meets Ava, a robot programmed by Nathan who supposedly is a true AI. Nathan asks Caleb to see if she passes the Turing test. When Caleb points out that he would have had to be unaware of her true nature for the test to be valid, Nathan tells him that he still wants to see if, knowing what she is, she can still fool him into thinking she’s as conscious as he is. Ensues a mad cat and mouse game between the three characters.
What felt particularly good about this movie is how it approaches the science part of the story. This isn’t a scientific movie; it’s a philosophical exercise that is using science as basis for a story. Everytime I thought “oh, they’ll probably explain this topic in this or that way to justify the character doing this or that later on”, I ended up being pleasantly surprised at how simply the movie dismissed overly explaining anything. Nathan at one point asks Caleb to stop talking with his big words and just tell him how he feels. I felt that he was also speaking directly to me. We do this with horror movies all the times – how can zombies even exist? – so why not do this for science-fiction? Obviously, the seventies and eighties were proof that you can do sci-fi without having an ounce of scientific knowledge but unlike the space operas of decades past, Ex Machina remains a serious, believable movie. It’s just that the “hows” are not important to the story.
Some will find it at times predictable. Maybe it is. But that’s the beauty of Ex Machina: it doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t. It’s a movie about human consciousness, about the differences between knowledge and feelings and it focuses solely on that. All in all, a beautiful piece.
SHOULD YOU WATCH IT?