By Sam McKeown
Are the capabilities of humans approaching to the aptitude of Gods?
Ex Machina is the first film written and directed by Alex Garland, who has had past success as a novelist and filmography writer. He wrote The Beach and screenplays for other sci-fi films, most notably for Dredd and Sunshine. With someone as imaginative as Garland at the helm, it is no wonder then that Ex Machina is such a bold film that asks the most important computer aged question, ‘What happens when we go too far?’
The story starts with Caleb (Donald Gleeson), a young and talented, yet nerdy techie who works for the Google – esque Blue Book search engine. Caleb wins a competition to stay for a week at the isolated home of his genius CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Isaac’s character has obviously been affected by how remote his location is because he seems to have been drinking and having parties by himself. Nathan then states to Caleb the reason for his arrival which is to be the human component in the ultimate experiment (Turing Test), to test his latest invention, Ava (Alicia Vikander), which possesses a human face, but a robot body. The test is to check for any artificial intelligence and whether Ava can persuade Caleb that independent consciousness is present. Nathan finally convinces Caleb by stating one of the most arguably hard-hitting lines in the film, “If that test is past, you are dead centre at the greatest scientific event in the history of man”. Caleb then replies with an eerily realisation, that it isn’t the history of man, it is in fact the history of Gods.
Soon you find out that Nathan’s home is in fact a custom-built underground research facility with windowless rooms and long white corridors which adds to the suspense of the beautifully used background music. What also needs to be stated is the stunningly usage of blue light that comes from Ava’s see-through body, which is incredibly mesmerising, but not distracting. The background music, which can only be described as a paradoxical clash between classical and postmodern robotic sound is entwined with the fantastic noises that come from Ava as her cyborg form moves when on screen. These noises were perfectly described by film critic Mark Kermode as a “Symphony of whispered gyroscopic sound”.
Throughout the film you wonder how the story will unfold between these three characters, who cleverly do not share a single scene together, which is arguably done to help the audience feel the different feelings of each character through separation; feelings such as trust, objection and jealousy.
All three characters go through captivating transformations from start to finish in particularly Caleb who starts as an excited, but obviously friendless IT stray. However, it soon becomes clear that he is engrossed by Ava and through this engrossment comes out his shell through developing an infatuation, which leads to him question the ethical dilemma as he no longer sees Ava as a robot, but a captive.
Special mention also needs to go to Alicia Vikander whose performance of playing the translucent robot, Ava is nothing short of special through perfectly depicting the poetic physicality between natural and unnatural.
The main catalyst that drives Ex Machina is whether a singularity is present and whether affection and attraction can be present between man and machine and finally if a machine can or cannot feel love. There is a section which is a new perspective on robotics that all other films that are similar to Ex Machina have either not answered or no tackled yet. It is the question asked by Caleb to Nathan, “Why sexualise her?” Nathan states a need for a natural connection between a man and a machine and that physical similarity is crucial for this to occur. But the main agenda behind Nathan’s choice to make Ava a woman is, “Because it’s fun”.
Ex Machina is an exceptional film that is a story of a metaphorical ballet between man and machine to which the motives of each character are continually guessable.