What begins as the trip of a lifetime soon becomes a twisted, creepy exploration into human capability for young computer programmer Caleb. When he wins first prize in a company competition he is taken swiftly, by helicopter, to meet a mysterious man; a software genius who founded the company Caleb works for. In the film’s first few minutes Caleb finds himself at the home of the mogul. Nathan greets Caleb as a friend and a companion. It soon becomes apparent that he wants Caleb to be much more than just a drinking partner over the next week. We quickly learn that Nathan has built artificial intelligence and wants Caleb’s help in identifying whether or not it has consciousness. Ex Machina proceeds as a visual example of the infamous Turing Test. Caleb is introduced to Ava; an advanced A.I whose voice alone would pass as a human’s. Caleb’s task is to assess whether or not Ava has a soul, despite being able to blatantly see that she is made of artificial material. When power-cuts begin to occur more and more regularly, and when Caleb is told different information by Nathan and Ava, it soon becomes unclear who can be trusted. Ex Machina deals with classic science fiction themes that have gone before it. From the influences of Frankenstein to Minority Report, Ex Machina is a haunting study of human capability and the ethical questions that go with our ever-advancing ability to reproduce human life. Ex Machina is a philosophical wonder – taking you on a journey into the moral dilemmas of intelligence, creation and technology.
Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander dazzle. Gleeson has become very good at playing the everyday-man. A timid bloke with a good heart Caleb isn’t far away from the same characters he’s played in Frank or About Time. Ex Machina lets Gleeson prove he is more than just the new Hugh Grant. His every-man adds unexpected power to a film like Ex Machina; he is the centre of reason and certainty when chaos starts to consume. Vikander brings the same detailed A.I. characteristics that we associate with classic science fiction. She is vulnerable like Steven Spielberg’s pre-cogs but feisty and vengeful like Ridley Scott’s replicants. She is eager to learn just like Frankenstein’s monster. Her performance is both a tribute to science fiction androids of the past and an iconic example of the future possibilities of the genre. By combining the old, she presents the new. Oscar Isaac towers above them both. There’s more alcohol in Nathan’s blood stream than blood. Half an athletic genius, half an intoxicated loser; his persona switches constantly and his weaknesses only make his more alert the next morning. Isaac transforms into his characters, Here he is menacing, intense and controlling – a larger than life maniac whose moral compass broke long ago.
Nathan plays God whilst Caleb questions his intention. Caleb’s questions are the film’s most fascinating aspects. Why did you give her gender? Why did you make her? All his questions are answered by Nathan through his arrogance and ego: Wouldn’t you? – he replies. When Caleb asks “why?”, Nathan usually answers “why not?”. Here the film perfectly juggles both the wariness of Caleb and the ambition of Nathan. Whether or not this is all moral or wise is irrelevant to the driven mastermind when it is all in the name of science and evolution. How far should we push the boundaries of human capability? If there are boundaries to push, is it always right to push them? – Such questions are at the centre of Ex Machina and make it the satisfying, thought-provoking science-fiction marvel that it is. It is creepy and sinister whilst almost always feeling operatic. It looks great, it sounds great and it’s just the right length. This is a film with a strong vision. It knows where it wants to go and it grips you so you run with it. It keeps you guessing until the closing minutes, giving you an ending you didn’t see coming and that you didn’t know you needed until it’s plonked right in front of you.
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