Ex Machina (15)

Directed by Alex Garland
Starring Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander

Writer Alex Garland's directorial debut is a gripping sci-fi thriller that is essentially a three handed drama in one isolated (but gorgeous) location. Computer geek Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is invited to his boss Nathan's mountain retreat and is soon introduced to Ava, a prototype robot built by Nathan (Oscar Isaac) and Caleb gets to test the AI. Does Ava pass the Turing test for self awareness?
What starts as a story about the possibilities of science, develops into a tense examination of the motives and ethics of rich genius types. Is Nathan what he seems? Oscar Isaac is excellent although very misogynistic and pretty creepy throughout, while Gleeson shows his everyman appeal once again, as our eyes into this world. I am less positive about the sexual politics of this film, however. Ava played by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander is like so many robot girls, sexy and gorgeous and instantly in love with the geeky guy! There is a LOT of naked female flesh while the guys barely take their shirts off! However, as the story unfolds, this is kind of a crucial plot point so it isn't a deal breaker. Watching for a second time though, I am pretty confused about Ava's motives. Where is she going? What happens to Caleb? How did Nathan construct these robots when we see barely any tools or manufacturing materials? What was with the dancing??!
Garland as a writer/ director explores the science in an interesting way and there is lots to think about. The story is gripping and tense. This is the film poor Wally Pffister wishes he made instead of the bloated mess Transcendence was!
Sparsely plotted, with some fascinating moral questions raised. Just wish there was less slightly gratuitous female nudity! 7/10

January 2015

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