EX MACHINA

EX MACHINA is more commonly read as part of the expression Deux Ex Machina. Literal translation is god from a machine. In movies it is when a writer introduces a new device or ability that solves a seemingly unsolvable dilemma. I think in Alex Garland’s (writer behind 28 DAYS LATER and DREDD) directing debut, it is referring to the more literal meaning. Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a contest at his Google-inspired workplace to spend a week at the company founder’s secluded home. When he arrives, he meets Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Nathan believes he is smarter than everyone else, and he probably is. He’s created what he believes is true artificial intelligence. Ava (Alicia Vikander) is a machine, but her brain seems to function as that of a human. Caleb’s job is to perform a Turing test. Can he interact with Ava and forget that she is not truly a computer? The genius of EX MACHINA is that it takes your expectations and turns them on their head. You think you know where the film is going, and it does go there in a most interesting and intelligent fashion. But just when you think you’ve got it all figured out and you’re patting yourself on the back for being so smart, something else happens that makes you question everything that happened before. Caleb and Nathan get into philosophical discussions about the ethics of playing god, about the true nature of search engines and what the hell Jackson Pollock was really trying to accomplish. Gleeson turns in a good performance as the lonely programmer who initially feels like Alice in Wonderland. Vikander is also quite good as Ava. But, Isaac truly steals this movie with a scene chewing performance (in a great way). Is he good? Is he evil? Is he mad? He does prove to be smarter, but is that also going to be his undoing? I’m not going to reveal anything about that. Garland does a great job making us think and keeping this movie where not much happens action-wise visually interesting. This is truly excellent sci-fi. It addresses a modern issue and asks what the natural evolution is and whether that is such a great idea. After seeing EX MACHINA I’m not so sure. — Alan Yudman

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