Sunday, December 27, 2015

Movie with Abe: Ex Machina

Ex Machina
Directed by Alex Garland
Released April 24, 2015

There are some scientific advancements that are the stuff of science fiction but may not be all that far off from becoming just science. Setting a story in a time that might as well today with a few mechanical tweaks can make it all the more effective since it feels like it could actually happen in present-day society. “Ex Machina” does just that, following talented programmer Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson) as he is taken to the remote home of Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a rich inventor and CEO who has enlisted Caleb’s help to analyze the humanity of his great creation: Ava (Alicia Vikander), a robot designed with artificial intelligence who looks like a human.

The audience begins the experience with Caleb, unaware of what will come with the prize that this programmer has won. When, aboard a helicopter, Caleb asks how close they are to Nathan’s estate, he is told that they have already been flying over it for two hours. The pilot is not even allowed to approach the compound, and as soon as Caleb exits the plane, he steps into a large maze of rooms, some which he may enter and others that he may not, and meets the eccentric Nathan, who is short on small talk but all about getting into Caleb’s head, which is precisely what he wants Caleb to do as he gets to know Ava.

Caleb’s interactions with Ava are the centerpiece of this film, and they are definitely interesting. Caleb has been charged by Nathan with performing a “Turing test,” during which he must determine how human Ava seems and whether she has convinced him that she is indeed more than artificial intelligence. It is clear from the start that Ava is a worthwhile match for Caleb, redirecting questions he asks her back to him, and Nathan’s opinion on the situation, and the way in which he only seldom parts with important and useful information, is just as intriguing.

The direction “Ex Machina” takes is hardly a surprising one, but it is told in a subtle and very effective way with just three main characters representing the whole film. Gleeson is a fitting lead who does not steal attention away from the other players, and Isaac does a remarkable job of negotiating Nathan’s brilliance with his ego. Vikander, who earned a Golden Globe nomination for her role as Ava and also impressed in “The Danish Girl” this year, is the real find here, making Ava a magnificently interesting character who really does seem human at times. The film’s visual effects are superb, and this small independent film is worth a watch for those to whom the subject matter appeals.


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