With a cast so thin and a budget so low, Ex Machina could have easily slipped into the realm of forgotten low-budget movies. This is not the case, as this is one of those rare incidences where limited resources, creative minds and stand-out rising-star performances collide to create a truly remarkable gem.
Not a second is wasted in this 108 minute sci-fi thriller. We immediately meet Domhnall Gleeson’s (About Time) character, Caleb, after winning a competition. Without spelling it out to the audience, it is assumed he has won the contest to meet world-renowned genius Nathan, played by Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis). Unbeknownst to Caleb, the real objective is for Caleb to be the human element in a Turing test. For the uninitiated, the Turing test is basically a way to assess if a robot has the capability to convey intelligent conscious behavior. This is where Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina) is introduced, playing the role of the robot Ava.
Director Alex Garland explores every crevice of creating artificial intelligence, and the consequences that come thereafter. This being his directorial début makes the film that much sweeter. Having been the writer of great sci-fi films such like Dredd and Sunshine, you could tell Alex Garland felt comfortable and at home with this material which allowed him to adventure further. We get to see discussions into concepts of God, and what it is to become a God, or if this is simply the next stage of evolution. Are robots and artificial intelligent inevitable? What makes up a conscious mind? Can a robot ever be conscious? These ideas and more are discussed at full length with intelligent three-dimensional characters.
The characters played by the three leads in this are first-rate. They manage to stay unpredictable whilst still believable, this isn’t a stupid horror flick where the characters make unrealistic decisions. This is a film with smart characters making informed, intelligent choices, that interrupt and interact with each others decisions in an authentic way. As the audience, consistently attempt to predict the characters next move you are pleasantly surprised at each turn.
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