Ex Machina (8/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 110 minutes.
OK for children but some total female nudity.
This is the best, most credible, of the artificial intelligence movies
to date. The essence of the plot is that Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson)
takes an assignment at a secluded mountain estate of the company’s
brilliant, reclusive CEO, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). His task is to
be the human component in a Turing Test, a test of a
machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or
indistinguishable from, that of a human.
The machine he meets is Ava (Alicia Vikander), a gorgeous robot created
by Nathan. But she’s an obvious machine with a beautiful face,
apparently large, albeit clothed, breasts, but arms and legs and torso
of a machine.
Tightly written and directed by Alex Garland, this is a fascinating
thriller as Caleb puts Ava through various tests throughout the week
establishing a rapport leading to a conclusion nobody could have
anticipated. Gleeson, Isaac, and Vikander all give outstanding
performances, buttressed by terrific understated music.
The last artificial intelligence movie I saw was the deplorable Her
(2013), involving a man who falls in love with the disembodied
computer voice, a movie that was so silly it defied credibility. Here,
because Ava is a robot that Caleb can see as well as communicate with,
what happens is far more believable.
While much of it is conversation between Caleb and Ava, Garland keeps
the tension up and the pace moving by tackling many thought-provoking
existential issues. I hesitate to single out any of the three stars
because all give wonderful, spell-binding performances, but perhaps
Vikander is the one who carries more of the load because she comes
across as extremely sexy, even when you know she’s just a machine. But
Gleeson and Isaac keep up with her.
Special mention must go to Andrew Whitehurst who was responsible for the
visual effects that converted Vikander into the robot Ava, which took
six months in post-production. Also aiding the film were the
high-quality music by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, and the
cinematography by Rob Hardy, both of which keep things on an uneven
I wasn’t expecting much when I walked in, but I came out pleasantly
surprised, indeed rewarded, by what I had just seen.