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EX MACHINA (director/writer: Alex Garland; cinematographer: Rob Hardy; editor: Mark Day; music: Ben Salisbury/Geoff Barrow; cast: Domhnall Gleeson (Caleb), Alicia Vikander (Ava), Oscar Isaac (Nathan), Sonoya Mizuno (Kyoko), Claire Selby (Lily), Symara Templeman (Jasmine), Gana Bayarsaikhan (Jade), Tiffany Pisani (Katya), Elina Alminas (Amber); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Andrew MacDonald/Allon Reich; A24; 2015)
“Brainy sci-fi thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The 44-year-old Brit filmmaker Alex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later and Never Let Me Go, makes his auspicious directorial debut with this brainy sci-fi thriller. The thoughtful film, perhaps a misogynistic nightmare, shows both the benefits and dangers of advancing science technology, male attitudes toward women and questions if a love could exist for real between humans and AIs. It also slyly puts it out there about future relationships between men and women robots becoming romantic.

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a single 26-year-old Internet coder who wins a workplace competition sponsored by his Blue Book search engine firm, the world’s largest Internet provider, to spend a week with the mysterious, abrasive, billionaire, genius CEO Nathan (Isaac) at his vast uninhabited sparsely furnished glass housed hermetic woodland estate in Alaska. After landing by helicopter within walking distance of the heavily secured compound, the nerdy Caleb learns from his provocative, egotistical, cool-dude boss that he’s to participate in an enigmatic research experiment to test how far out Nathan’s newest AI creation, Ava (Alicia Vikander, Swedish actress), a thinking machine, has achieved consciousness. Ava is a female robot expressing herself as a sensual woman while no attempt is made to hide her wiring, synthetic covering or metal parts. The plan is for Caleb to have 7 sessions to naturally converse with the robot and see if she can fully pass the human emotion test and all other tests that make one human.Caleb agrees to perform a Turing test on Ava (the 1950 test is named after computer experimenter Alan Turing), which will measure how close she is to a human.

The minimalist pic is filled with surprises, great acting (Oscar Isaac is brilliantly coarse and bizarre, while Vikander’s delicate performance sets the pic’s tone) and stunning visuals. It takes us to unexpected places in understanding robots even if it follows along the lines of many recent artificial intelligence films. This sci-fi venture is witty, has the ability to dazzle us with teasing poses of android sexuality and asks how much can we sympathize with the AI characters if they can out-think us.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”