Deliberately confusing in blurring the line separating emotionless AI and a human mind-like existence, “Ex Machina” is quite a murky show, which touches the well-known topic without delivering new answers. Yet, it is a well acted sci-fi, with some moral depth in the background, but on the other hand – too waffly and confusing.
Caleb’s ordinary life as a programmer changes rapidly, when he is invited to spend a week at his boss’ manor – an exile, who lives in a mountain cabin, locked inside his futuristic lab. Nathan (Oscar Isaac) brings Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) for a reason – the young coding specialist will participate in an experiment aimed at defining the capabilities of a female AI – Ava (Alicia Vikander) – in terms of her human features.
“Ex Machina” is divided into a two-way game; the first one is an awkwardly evolving emotional attachment of Caleb to Ava, whilst the second is progressively forming anxiety and suspicion towards Nathan. Obviously, director’s idea was to focus on an abstract idea of a human-like bond linking Ava and Caleb. Eventually, the final effect is completely reverse, mainly due to screen chemistry of duo Gleeson-Isaac. It’s their game of smart minds, constant moving of the line and a confrontation of values and aims in terms of Ava – that is the part of “Ex Machina”, which paradoxically grasps the attention. Paradoxically, taking into consideration the fact, that the main manipulative side is Ava, who seems to be quite aside in the most interesting problem shown in the movie.
Garland’s film is unfortunately too opaque in its message. AI is as close to a human being as the coding brilliance of Nathan lets it to be, it also develops feelings or masters itself in projecting them. On the other hand, there is no criticism of it; there is more criticism of human nature than the abstract idea of playing God-like game. The issue seems to be the different reasons (or their lack…) to work on AI – the utterly naive argument backing up Nathan is that creation of Ava “was inevitable”. Existence of Ava is more a vagary of an eccentric millionaire rather than a danger to crossing the barrier of humanity and technology.
Despite this morallly odd chaos in the interpretation layer of “Ex Machina”, the movie itself is too slow and over-talked, even though the disputations of Caleb and Nathan are convincing and intriguing – it takes a lot of concentration and patience to fully dig into them. Alicia Vikander does her best at delivering role of Ava – it is hard to tell whether she’s more human or more a robot. Oscar Isaac is probably the strongest feature of the film, his alcoholic, genius and arogant Nathan does not fall flat at all. My biggest chagrin is provoked by Gleeson, who almost copied his sorry-I’m-lost-from-the-beginning attitude from “Frank”.
“Ex Machina” by Alex Garland is a provoking, intelligent doubting the “cogito ergo sum” notion, perplexing at the same time the ones in favor of AI and those opposing to it. Although it’s murky, slow and even naive, it is a strangely disturbing picture, which does not leave you indifferent. No matter how hard you try, “Ex Machina” will force you to think about the line between technology and humanity – either it’s existence or it’s lack.
UMP Grade: 34/50
(Cinematography: 7, Plot: 6, Acting: 7, Soundtrack: 6, Quaintness: 8)