Ex Machina

Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac
Directed by Alex Garland
Rating: B

How far does an artificial intelligence (AI) have to go to prove it has a conscience?

Caleb (Gleeson) is a programmer, selected as a winner from his company to spend a week working on a secretive project with his boss, Nathan (Isaac). The goal of the project is to determine whether an AI can pass for human or not. Caleb is assigned to spend time with it and report to Nathan each evening of his interactions.

The AI is introduced to Caleb in a female form and calls herself Ava (Vikander). Each session becomes progressively less formal as Caleb tries to treat Ava like a human. His awe for her mechanics and intellect begin to shape themselves as complicated feelings for her. She starts to dress herself like a human and flirts with him as they spend each day together.

Nathan mainly observes Caleb’s time with Ava and takes note of their conversations. Something uneasy seems to be going on with Nathan while Caleb stays at his isolated facility. Nathan spends his days and evenings drinking, sometimes too much. He twists Caleb’s words to sound egotistical and every day a power outage causes a brief lockdown. Nathan’s isolation from society and lack of human interaction put into question his own sanity.

With only three main characters, it’s hard to tell who is trust worthy as the story unfolds. Ex Machina is an interesting film to watch because not only does it address how ethical it would be to make artificial intelligence too human, but also the basic human need to socialize. Caleb is the first person Ava meets besides her creator. She has learned about the outside world because she was programmed that way, but it’s different from actually experiencing it.

Caleb becomes suspicious of Nathan’s behavior after witnessing how often he drinks. This draws out the plot of the movie when Ava herself warns Caleb that Nathan is not an honest person.

Like most movies involving a subject with artificial intelligence, Ex Machina explores the wish fulfillment humans have to be free. Ava questions the power Nathan has over her, as her creator, to shut her off if he’s not happy with her. Sometimes attempting to make something human doesn’t result in the best of consequences.

Ex Machina fits in with most AI movies. A robot wants to be free, and it’s not necessarily trying to be human because Ava doesn’t reveal a wish to feel emotions. So with this movie, it plays out the robot story a little differently, which is why I rated this a “B”.

I liked it, but the ending was off-putting. I liked how the characters were complex but there wasn’t anything that simply “wowed” me into thinking I should buy the DVD. One thing that does work for the movie was that the cinematography was absolutely stunning. The location of the facility was not covered in the movie, but a Google check says it was shot in Norway. The cold, gray mountains towering high into the clouds with clusters of greenery was beautiful. The river behind the house looked inviting (besides the fact that it was probably freezing). The scenery alone is a good reason to watch this movie.

I think Ex Machina needed more suspense to win me over. Despite the lack of thrills, it was an interesting take on testing artificial intelligence to see if one can be tricked into believing it has human qualities.


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