Overall Grade: (A)
A greatly creative science-fiction drama that is unique, ambitious and enjoyable despite the minor flaws in the script.
An unsuspecting programmer is selected to take part in a groundbreaking evaluation of a cutting-edge female A.I. created by an eccentric genius. When he gets to the state-of-the-art mansion isolated in the countryside he begins to wonder if he is the one being evaluated and why he was the one chosen.
I knew little of this film when I started watching it and whether or not that was a factor, I must say I really enjoyed the story “Ex Machina” told. As soon as young Caleb arrives to the lavish home built into the countryside nothing is as it seems. Oscar Isaac delivered a captivating performance as the reclusive, eccentric scientist and with his odd mannerisms and entrapping verbiage you really are left in the dark as to what exactly the plot of the film will be.
The conversations between Isaac and Caleb seem standard enough but the well written dialogue conveys many uneasy moments as well as times where the tension was subtly elevated as Nathan’s constant posturing makes Caleb routinely uneasy about his personality, and his reason for being there. This did not instantly create tension but it held the intrigue at high levels throughout as you try and piece together what the twist would be – if Nathan can be trusted, and the real purpose to Caleb being selected for the evaluation.
Alicia Vikander was excellent as the A.I. named Ava, before going into the detail in the special-effects used for creating her appearance, her performance was what truly made her a riveting character. Her interactions with Caleb resulted in compelling cinema as you can connect to the situation of her being virtually a hostage of Nathan since her creation. You can feel she is working into the mind of Caleb and manipulating him in some way, but for what purpose, was held in the dark for a good portion of the film to keep the interest high. You could sense that every elementary question she asked Caleb was not for the answer but for the body gestures, mannerisms and expressions he would make so she could learn more about him without his knowledge
I also really like the subtle special-effects used. They were extremely detailed and gave the AI a unique look from the other more common forms you see filmmakers use in other films on the topic. The creation of the house and the technology Nathan had at his disposal was also a nice addition to this captivating science-fiction drama. It all gave the film a fun visual appeal to serve as a companion to the entertaining story-line.
These were all strong aspects that were what made this film very entertaining and thought-provoking. Artificial Intelligence was the theme but it wasn’t the focal point of the film (for me). Sure some of the key elements of AI and is plausibility were glossed over, but this wasn’t a documentary. This was a science-FICTION film therefore you can simply sit back and enjoy the unique story-line unless you want to over think it.
*** Spoilers Below ***
I have read many reviews on this film and a lot of the negative ones seem to be focusing on some of the same details. I also think many people missed the main plot of this film. While on the surface the plot looked like a robot seducing a human to escape. Yes this robot does want to escape, but in my opinion the plot of this film revolved around a genius programmer creating an AI and not treating it like it had intelligence.
When Caleb scans back over the security footage you can see many instances of trial and error and many ranges of emotions. Ava was created with intelligence, over the many days of being in that home, long before Caleb arrived Ava could see the results of all the experiments, what happens to old models during various test phases, once they are no longer needed, etc.
Nathan created these beings but did not treat them like the had the intelligence he himself gave them. Hence why Ava as well as Kyoko manipulated both Nathan and Caleb to escape, regardless of whether Kyoko actually made it out or not. So in my opinion Ava was playing both of the humans for one sole purpose, not necessarily freedom itself, but to simply leave the prison that Nathan’s home had become. Now whether you want to pick apart the helicopter ride at the end is understandable but it didn’t hinder the stories enjoyment to me. “Ex Machina” was a creative science-fiction drama that is certainly worth a watch.