The second half of my catch-up-on-Netflix double-header (part 1 was Foxcatcher) was Ex Machina, staring Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, and Alicia Vikander.
Many accolades were sent this film’s way, and rightfully so, I think. It succeeds on so many levels as a film.
It is shot beautifully. Every angle, sound, decoration, and lighting choice is incredible. We are, through the camera’s lens, in Nathan’s (Oscar Isaac) Alaskan retreat.
The casting is great. the three leads (Isaac, Gleeson, and Vikander) all capture and encapsulate their characters brilliantly. Isaac is a reclusive techno-wizard. Gleeson is his ambitious yet reserved employee (and in so many ways equally brilliant), Caleb. And Vikander brings Ava to life with an innocence and playfulness that is refreshing amidst the sometimes heavy discussion of humanity and its traits and foibles.
The central story is one we know: can a computer/AI pass the turing test? Can a human being fail to distinguish between the machinery and the humanity?
But Ex Machina takes us so far down the ladder of consideration of intelligence as program versus soul that it can seem like we’re watching a philosophy bowl instead of a gripping science-fiction film.
Action versus reaction. Humor as intelligence. Sexuality as a weapon. The desire to create. The desire to live. The desire to love. Jealousy. Deception.
All of these aspects of humanity are under full discussion and consideration in Ex Machina.
For me, though, as the movie came to its final act, the most human of all traits came to the fore and determined the outcome of the story: trust.
And, by default, distrust.
Caleb comes not to trust Nathan, but trusts Ava. Nathan trusts no one. Ava trusts that Caleb will help her.
But, as is so often the case with humanity (and its surrogates), nothing is quite as it seems, nor is all trust or distrust absolutely correct.
Ex Machina should be on the must-see list of every science-fiction fan, philosophy enthusiast, mystery buff, or film-lover in general.
I can’t think of a single reason to tell you NOT to see this film.
So what are you waiting for?
Also read my review of The Machine, another fun AI film.