Ex Machina (2015)

28 Apr

In 1958, Stanislaw Ulam, one of the greatest mathematicians to ever live, talked about a technological event called The Singularity.  Ulam theorized that with the ever-increasing advances in computing technology, creating a super-intelligent computer system that would outperform a human brain was inevitable.  Ex Machina, starring Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, and Alicia Vikander documents the psychological and ethical implications of such an event by highlighting the various aspects of having super-intelligent machines interacting with humanity.

Caleb works as a programmer for a tech company called Bluebook (another word for Google Inc), the world’s most prolific search engine. The company’s owner, Nathan, lives in an isolated, high-security luxurious home which doubles as a state-of-the-art technological research facility. Caleb is lucky enough to win a lottery that gives him the chance to spend a week living with Nathan, as he embarks on a mysterious task for Bluebook.

Caleb is your seemingly typical white-skinned blonde-haired computer nerd; he is self-conscious, reserved, and humble. Nathan on the other hand, is virtually on the opposite side of the spectrum. Incredibly charismatic, social, and sexy, the party boy is usually seen with either a barbell or a bottle of vodka in hand. The interactions between the two awkwardly authentic. It soon becomes clear what Caleb’s secret task is: to test an artificial intelligence program named Ava. Essentially, Caleb is tasked with figuring out if Ava has a mind of it’s own, or if it’s rather just acting off a simple pre-programed structure. What follows is a mental tug-of-war between the trio, as the various characters try to unspool each other’s true intentions.

Ex Machina is a brilliant exercise of psychological anxiety fueled by sexual tension and technological paranoia. Layers of personality are gradually stripped as the film progresses revealing the startling and disturbing psyche that is behind each person/machine. It’s a complex and deeply freudian approach to the thriller genre, and remains unpredictable just when you think the story ventures into familiar territory. First time director Alex Garland really has crafted a remarkable and textually rich film. The aesthetic appeal of Ex Machina is hard to resist as well; stunning exterior shots of waterfalls, glaciers, and forests are clashed against Kubrick-esc takes of dim interiors, and the score by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow is sure to be one of the year’s best.

Bottom line: Ex Machina is a layered and complex take on the robot sub-genre that proves to be both emotionally and psychologically stimulating.

Rating: 9/10 

Film Recipe: Under The Skin (2014) + Moon (2009) + Enemy (2014)

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