Ex Machina is a smart, provocative new entry in the booming A.I. sci-fi genre | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

Ex Machina is a smart, provocative new entry in the booming A.I. sci-fi genre 

Gaze into my crystal ball: Artificial intelligence is the future in Ex Machina

courtesy of a24 films

Gaze into my crystal ball: Artificial intelligence is the future in Ex Machina

A striking yet seemingly throwaway moment in EX MACHINA occurs when Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a reclusive tech tycoon, joins a mute girl Friday named Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno) for an impromptu dance routine set to Oliver Cheatham's R&B hit "Get Down Saturday Night."

The lone observer of this pas de deux is the dumbstruck Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a computer coder for Nathan's company, an Internet search engine called BlueBook. Selected from obscurity, Caleb is flown to Nathan's remote, fortified hideaway to take part in a Turing test, which assesses the intelligent behavior of Nathan's secretive, sensational creation: an artificially intelligent humanoid named Ava (Alicia Vikander).

Nathan doesn't conceive of this pinnacle of human invention as a machine to conquer war, disease or environmental catastrophe. Instead, the brilliant, beer-swilling billionaire bro constructs Ava as a replicant of his feminine ideal, from her coy personality to an expressive face affixed to a supple, metallic physique. Heck, maybe even her skills as a dance partner.

"In answer to your question, you bet she can fuck," Nathan adds, actually answering no one's query but his own.

Writer-director Alex Garland (28 Days Later) fills his film with philosophical subtext. The name of Nathan's company derives from German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's published lecture notes of the same name, in which he considers the question, "Is it possible for a machine to think?" Caleb compares the captive Ava's plight to Frank Jackson's thought-experiment, "Mary's Room." Nathan draws creative inspiration, perhaps regrettably, from the mix of design and randomness in a Jackson Pollock drip painting.

The fulcrum of this weighty allegory is when Nathan reveals that Ava's gelatinous brain is powered by BlueBook's Google-esque expanse. Ava isn't just created by man. Her entire being is a digital repository of mankind's history, including an urge for freedom and intimacy, but also a capacity for survival and deception. Indeed, the creator's quest for technical perfection is inextricably influenced by his personal imperfections—superior intelligence bound by ego and self-indulgence.

The plotline is a virtual point-by-point update of The Island of Dr. Moreau, including an Eden-esque setting. The absence of the deus (God) from the film's title, drawn from the term deus ex machina, is not an oversight. The roles of deity, hero and villain are deliberately left undefined and rotate between the three main characters as the narrative slowly unspools.

At one point, a delirious Caleb slits his wrist to determine what lurks beneath his own dermis. One of Ex Machina's most provocative feats is that it dilutes the import of his discovery. Is God dead? No, he/she is just being reconfigured.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Intelligent designs."
  • A brilliant, beer-swilling billionaire bro constructs a replicant of his feminine ideal.

Film Details

Ex Machina
Rated R · 110 min. · 2015
Official Site: meet-ava.com
Director: Alex Garland
Writer: Alex Garland
Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander

Trailer


Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for Ex Machina

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review



Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

The lobster is arbitrarily asinine, disjointed, and gratuitously violent towards both humans and former humans that "didn't make it." If …

by Marco_Polo on The Lobster Surreally Skewers Society’s Fear of Single People (Film Review)

The only peeople who murdered those boys were let off by an inexperienced prosecutor and hoodwinked judge. The facts are …

by Greg 1 on The West Memphis Three are free ... what about the real killer? (Film Review)

"Miles Ahead"... "opening Friday".... where? I'm having a tough time finding film times/locations on www.indyweek.com now. The …

by Tbone on Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis Film, Miles Ahead, Isn’t a Real Biopic—It’s Something Better (Film Review)

Actually, many evangelicals and other Christians would not agree with the notion that "if you are a true believer you …

by bsquizzato on Film Review: Christian Movie Miracles From Heaven Goes Where Secular Hollywood Won't (Film Review)

Comments

The lobster is arbitrarily asinine, disjointed, and gratuitously violent towards both humans and former humans that "didn't make it." If …

by Marco_Polo on The Lobster Surreally Skewers Society’s Fear of Single People (Film Review)

Most Read

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation