Review: Ex Machina

ex machinaLights: 2015. Science-fiction drama. Rated R for graphic nudity, language, sexual references, and some violence. Runtime: 108 minutes.

Camera: Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Issac, Alicia Vikander, and Soyona Mizuno. Written and directed by Alex Garland. Music by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury.

Action: Ex Machina was a movie that went onto my list as soon as I saw that it was advertised. It looked like a work of thought-provoking science fiction, and I wasn’t disappointed in that respect. There is a lot to think about with this film.

It is the story of Caleb (Gleeson), a young man who works for the world’s largest Internet company, who wins a contest to spend a week at a secluded retreat with the reclusive CEO of the company, Nathan (Issac). Caleb is surprised to learn that he is expected to cut off contact with the outside world and sign a non-disclosure agreement before Nathan will talk shop with him. Upon signing the agreement, Caleb learns the real reason for the secrecy; he is to test a new artificial intelligence that Nathan has created.

Nathan’s home is an incredible place, filled with all the amenities (except telephones). Nathan lives alone, except for his live-in housekeeper, Kyoko (Mizuno) who speaks no English. Caleb’s passkey grants him access to every room except those Nathan has designated off limits. In fact, the only real oddity is the unexplained power failures that occur from time to time. Nathan is at a loss to explain them, but shrugs them off as inadequacy on the part of the engineers.

On meeting the A.I., Ava (Vikander), for the first time, Caleb is taken aback by her complexity and reactions to his questions.  This is no simple computer algorithm. The more he speaks with Ava, the more human she begins to seem. But when a power outage shuts down the cameras that Nathan is using to observe the pair, her demeanor changes. She warns Caleb that Nathan is not to be trusted; that he lies. This sets the stage for the remainder of the film, which further explores the relationships between Ava and Caleb, Caleb and Nathan, and Nathan and Ava.

The film is very thought-provoking, and the science behind it is fairly well-supported. One could almost accept that Nathan really has created something amazing, portrayed beautifully by Alicia Vikander. At the same time, there is a darker, underlying theme that pervades the film and leaves you vaguely unsettled by the implications that it presents.

One thing I should speak on is the special effects. When we first meet Ava, it is painfully obvious that she is a machine, as her midsection, arms, and legs are completely transparent, revealing wires, fiber, and components beneath. The effect is seamless with the actress’ real face and body and the overall effect is one of beauty and wonder.

Parents: Ex Machina features graphic nudity, including full-frontal and rear female nudity. Potentially objectionable language, including the f-word, is present throughout. There is some blood and some of the violence is rather savage, but there is almost no gore. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this one to children, but then, it isn’t intended for them and most would find it boring and difficult to follow.

Rating: **** (out of five)