Review - Ex Machina

Ex Machina (2015), R, 108 minutes - I know that it only May - ok, the end of May - but so far this year, this is my 'best film that not enough people have seen'.  Unfortunately, I'm not helping change that much as it has now cycled out of theaters (at least in my area).  Because of scheduling of show times, it took me a couple weeks to get to see it myself, and then I've been dragging my feet getting around to this review.

Ex Machina utilizes a minimal cast led by Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson to explore the possibilities of true artificial intelligence (AI).  Caleb (Gleeson) is a programmer for a tech development firm who wins a drawing to spend a week with the company's founder Nathan (Isaac) at his remote estate.  After arriving, Caleb he learns that the real reason for the drawing was not to reward an employee with a week long meet and greet with Nathan, but to help in the testing process for his latest project: an AI he calls Ava (Alicia Vikander).  Nathan wants to observe Ava's interactions with a human being - Caleb - to determine whether or not his programming has achieved a true AI state or if it just gives off an illusion of actual sentience.  The film is driven by Caleb's daily sessions with Ava as they get to know each other and his discussions of those sessions with Nathan.  As the week goes on, more and more questions are raised in Caleb's mind.  Why do power outages keep happening in this wholly self sufficient, remote location?  Why is there only one staff member on site, and a non-English speaking one at that?  Why was sexuality introduced to Ava's programming?  Some answers are provided by Nathan.  Others are cryptically referenced by Ava, raising even more questions.  What are Nathan's true motivations?  Why isn't Ava allowed to leave the room she is in?  The more Caleb looks into these questions, the further down the rabbit hole he falls before realizing that he's being manipulated by both the created and the creator.

Ex Machina is Alex Garland's directorial debut, but he skillfully weaves an intriguing, thrilling, sci-fi story (he also wrote for Dredd, Sunshine, and 28 Days Later) that is a wonderfully deep and thought provoking film for being confined to a single, remote locale and utilizing such a limited number of characters.  Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson give wonderful performances, but Alicia Vikander's may be the best in the film.  She brings a budding AI to life filled with nuance and makes it completely believable, which is both amazing and unsettling.  Ex Machina is a film that I highly recommend, especially if you are a fan of sci-fi or thought provoking films in general.  If you are, you owe it to yourself to watch Ex Machina in one form or another.    

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