Films like “The Terminator” and “The Matrix” go right for the throat by showing us exactly how machines will take over the earth. They involve weapons, a mass human slaughter and sometimes kung Fu. The lesson of course being that artificial intelligence will one day be our undoing.
While the message does get across, I have always preferred the innocuous take on the end of our civilization, as we know it. The slow and methodical take over by machines that we created is far more disturbing.
Films like Spike Jonez’s “Her” and Steven Spielberg’s “AI” go for the more realistic route and show us something that almost feels inevitable. Alex Garland’s “Ex Machina” fits in well with the latter mentioned films. It adds a new element to the mixture to make for a more heightened sense of realism and a haunting overview.
“Ex Machina” follows a young coder named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) who is selected by the strange and reclusive Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a CEO of a major billion-dollar tech company. Nathan reveals that Caleb was selected to be part of an experimental Turing test in order to prove true intelligence from machine.
Caleb has sessions with Ava (Alicia Vikander) and slowly the lines begin to blur as to who is actually testing whom.
Garland creates a paranoid and claustrophobic backdrop with the foreground being filled with well-written characters and dialogue. Garland obviously did his homework on artificial intelligence and coding which makes for a more immersive experience.
Isaac is pure gold in his role as the odd and laid back billionaire. His references to “Ghostbusters” and his use of the word “dude” make for an entirely new kind of character in a film like this. He also manages to perfectly land one of the best and oddest choreographed scenes of the year.
Vikander is hypnotic as Ava. All of her mannerisms and facial expressions are something that an audience can easily get caught up in. She manages to act both as man and machine. The combination goes in a new direction in terms of movies that fall in this genre. The way she plays it is vulnerable with something hidden underneath that we create out of the fear of our own inventions.
What “Ex Machina” does perfectly is introduce sexuality as a means to become a weapon under the right light. Garland’s use of human sexuality is something that feels almost alien at times before you realize that; it is on the nose in terms of how the sexes interact in the real world.
Garland does the same thing that he did for clones in “Never Let Me Go” as he does for artificial intelligence in “Ex Machina,” he humanizes it, holds up mirrors to society and gives us something potentially dangerous on the horizon to think about.