Starring: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno
Directed By: Alex Garland
Written By: Alex Garland
Rating: R (US) Running Time: 1 hr 48 min
A talented programmer, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), figuratively wins the Wonka Golden ticket, and is invited to spend a week in the wilderness* with his company’s reclusive billionaire owner, Nathan (Oscar Isacc), creator of the world’s most used search engine, Bluebook (think Google). While there, he’s asked to perform the Turing test** on Nathan’s latest and greatest experiment with artificial intelligence – an android called Ava.
Ex Machina is everything the movie Chappie should have been. A serious look at our possible future, as scientists and programmers around the world charge towards creating artificial intelligence, seemingly without much thought about the implications. What if they succeed in creating a machine capable of passing the Turing test? How do we then treat that intelligence, and what would that say about us as human beings? In a world that mostly believes the creation of life is a skill solely belonging to a supreme being of some kind. What does it mean to us if we become creators of a new form of intelligent life?
Such lofty questions are explored in Alex Garland’s superb new film, Ex Machina. A serious science fiction piece, that takes risks, trusts the audience’s intelligence, and delivers a thoughtful examination of the birth of A.I. A thriller, that plays an intriguing game of who’s controlling who, supported by three extremely engaging performances from Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac. While also leaving just the right amount of ambiguity in its conclusions, to make this a film you’ll think about long after the final credits have rolled.
* Supposed to be somewhere in the US, but is actually a hotel in Norway – The Juvet Hotel.
** Turing test – A human interviews another human being and an A.I. system; both hidden from view. If the interviewer can’t identity which responses are coming from the artificial intelligence, then it passes the test. Invented by Alan Turning in 1950.
I thought the pacing of this film was perfect, but I can imagine some folks might find it a little slow. If you’re a fan of quality science fiction like 2001: A Space Odyssey, this is a ‘must see’ movie. Ex Machina (pronounced ‘mackina’) is rated R for some disturbing images, nudity and language.
The Juvet Hotel and surrounding landscape are beautifully shot by Rob Hardy, and I recommend you see this film in a theater. If you wait for the rental, get the HD version to watch on a nice big TV. Watching this gorgeous film on a laptop, tablet or phone would be a mistake.
Best Moment: << spoiler >>
Ava, a sentient being, obviously concerned why she’s being tested, asks Caleb some very honest and direct questions about her future.