Ex Machina (2015)
I thought I had missed the boat as far as the theatrical release of Ex Machina (2015) was concerned, scheduled at silly times of the day at my local cinema. Catching it by chance in Leicester Square’s Vue cinema. Now was it worth the wait is in my thoughts now. A fresh take on artificial intelligence, my last look at this theme was a revisit to Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001) which is more thought-provoking than this minimal film. Both work on the basic story of Pinocchio wanting to be human. Science fiction has toyed with that idea for years. My nearest would be Lieutenant Commander Data of Star Trek: The Next Generation an android who aspires to be better than himself. Moving back a few years from the 24th century to the not too distant future, probably brought to you by Google if I’m honest as search engine owner Nathan (Oscar Isaac) invites the winner of a competition at his company to spend a week at his secret lair in the middle of nowhere, not even the helicopter pilot who brings the winner Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) to the island can get too close. Secrecy is at the heart of this film as the two men meet and embarking on the Turing test with a new and exciting android Ava (Alicia Vikander). Who is the unwitting lab rat for Caleb who over the course of a weeks testing has to determine whether this stunning female android can pass in a crowd.
It’s a tough job for the eager geek Caleb who has only his secretive and manipulative boss for company. Much the same as Issac’s previous role in Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) a guy who just rubs you up the wring way, too clever for his own good. We know he’s holding something back but what. It’s up to eager Ava to communicate with Caleb the outsider. The robotic lab rat is incredibly beautiful to look at. To see Alicia Vikander play the innocent robot childlike, always wondering how the special effects turned her into an android. The trailer doesn’t do her justice, seeing a more vulnerable robot on the big-screen, her mechanics wrapped in a wire mesh makes her more intriguing.
The time spent between Caleb and Ava is the heart of the film, much like a prisoner telling their story to the visitor from local paper scoring the biggest story. Beginning much as you expect, testing her responses until the first power cuts which raise suspicion for Caleb who wants to know how this ultra modern hide-out/research facility could ever loose power. Somethings afoot, cemented by the CCTV cameras capturing both Ava and Nathan, nothing is as it seems.
As the week progress so do feelings grow for Caleb, is he being manipulated or is he really falling for this android? Again this is nothing new, adding more depth to the relationship between himself and Ava. Enter another figure, the silent yet obvious robot Kyoko Sonoya Mizuno who doesn’t understand a word of English. This is where things start to get obvious, I won’t tell you where and when. Even with the running time we see too much too soon, changing the tone from e are told everything at once almost which becomes too much to really understand before something else happens. The audience has a lot to digest. Saying that what we are given more depth and more questions that are later answered. It’s not all in vain.
The big twist at the end leaves you frustrated if I’m honest what haven’t we been told, have we missed something along the way. Soon after the results of the test are revealed, the real test is being played out as creation turns on the creator, it’s a classic device that is brought out at the last minute which seems forced. Still with the sense if dread and revelations before it fits in nicely delivering what Nathan deserves. I left with more questions though as the helicopter lands to pick Caleb up. I have to consider the long term consequences of that final showdown, is that what I want? Well yes, it add more depth to the film that moves at quite a speed, a week over 100 minutes we catch a glimpse at a possible future, one that Google might actually deliver in the next few decades. We have to consider the impact of AI’s on our society, how they would interact with us and vice-versa that is what good sci-fi does. Of course there are flaws to the film, the ending is far from perfect, it could have played out differently which is what I am left with.