Ex Machina  (2015)

Take some of The Matrix, some of Blade Runner, a bit of 2001, and update it all into the age of Google. "Ex Machina" looks at the current state of technology, computers, robotics, internet privacy and blends it all into a gripping story.

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a programmer for BlueBook, the world's largest tech company, a sort of blend of Google and Apple. They handle over 90% of online searches, and also make their own phones. Caleb wins a company lottery that lets him spend a weekend with the reclusive owner/CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Nathan reveals the true nature of the lottery was to find a programmer to run The Turing Test. The Turing Test is a real-life experiment to test a machine's ability to exhibit artificial intelligence. The 'machine', however, isn't just a computer; it's Ava, a stunningly realistic female robot.

Ava the robot and Caleb the human begin the test, but things quickly go awry. Nathan has used his vast resources to give Ava unprecedented levels of human behavior, to the point where Nathan, Caleb, and the audience are not sure who is testing who.

The biggest difference between Ex Machina and The Matrix or Blade Runner is the claustrophobic setting. The Matrix is full of big expansive action sequences, Blade Runner has dystopian cityspaces, but Ex Machina takes place mostly within the walls of Nathan's isolated mountain compound. Caleb's helicopter pilot mentions that they have been flying over Nathan's property for over two hours before they even reach the house. The house itself is smooth and cold, with automatically-locking doors and surveillance cameras everywhere. As the days pass, everything seems to get tighter and tighter.

The acting is fantastic, and each actor manages to put out a lot of intensity but remain subtle. Caleb begins awkward, but as more is revealed about Ava and about Nathan, he steels himself. Nathan is intimidating and manipulative, with a bit of the 'crazy eye' syndrome. Alicia Vikander is gorgeous and is able to portray the innocence of a computer that is "learning", while also showing the underlying inner turmoil of a machine that is aware that it is a machine but yearns to be more.

The Matrix made us question whether we were all inside a computer's virtual reality. Ex Machina made me question whether a computer could venture outside into our reality. I love the philosophical and moral implications of creating true artificial intelligence, and what it means to be human.



On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, "Ex Machina" gets a 9 out of 10.


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