Ex Machina Review

Ex Machina

The will to survive.

According to the tagline for Ex Machina, Alex Garland’s new sci-fi thriller, there’s nothing more human than this.

But can artificial intelligence evolve so far that machines will feel this way?

Caleb is a wide eyed and innocent developer at an uber trendy internet behemoth Bluebook, which is definitely not some nightmarish vision of the future where apple and google merge to become the most pretentious hipster mash up that will one day take over the world.

Anyway, Caleb has just won an in-house competition to spend the week at the vast and secluded home of the reclusive mac-daddy genius behind Bluebook Nathan.

And just like every good little hipster sheep should, Caleb’s very excited about this.

Alas, Nathan has quite a god complex going on, so there’s an ulterior motive to this tech wizard’s invitation.

Having built the most sophisticated artificial intelligence known to man, Nathan needs someone to give the Turing test to his Alicia Vikander shaped creation called Ava, that is to see if she could pass as human.

Even though you can see some of her wiring.

Naturally, all is not as it seems, and as Caleb’s interactions with Ava quickly get lost in a fog of half-truths, misdirection and desire, our wide eyed developer has to work out just who’s testing who.

From the mind behind 28 Days Later< and Dredd<, Garland's directorial debut is a minimalistic and sinister affair that explores a staple subject of the sci-fi genre, namely how intelligent can machines become. As ever with thrillers, less is more when it comes to knowing about Ex Machina's plot, but the three leads who look set to dominate cinema this year carry off their respective roles quite perfectly.

21st century everyman Domhnall Gleason plays the sympathetic character of Caleb, the one we’re supposed to identify with and root for, while Alicia Vikander uses her child-like innocence and supposedly mass manufactured curves to play the android who he’s testing.

But my own personal favourite is Oscar Isaac’s often hilarious take on Nathan, an egotistical genius who loves the sound of his own voice almost as much as he enjoys sadistically pushing other people’s buttons just for kicks.

Why I’d identify with such a fellow is, of course, a complete mystery.

Clever lighting allied with a darkly atmospheric score and the immaculate environs of Nathan’s futuristic home set the tone for Ex Machina, which will keep you guessing til the final act.

As for surviving, it usually comes down to the fittest, and I know who my money’s on out of this cast.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

January 2015