Ex Machina is a smart—super smart—science fiction film written by Alex Garland, which should be argument enough for seeing the movie. Screenwriters seldom get the recognition they deserve, but Garland definitely deserves it, having written the book The Beach (made into an ok movie, but the book was my favorite of the 90s) and more recently the fast-paced zombie flick 28 Days Later. He’s moving up in the film-making world, having also directed Ex Machina, in which he continues his wondering about identity, control, and human motivations versus human emotions. Ex Machina finds Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) as a very Mark Zuckerberg-esque computer programmer winning a contest to visit the reclusive owner of the search engine company, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). The purpose of the visit is for Caleb to ‘test’ a machine designed by Nathan, a machine that’s not just a robot, but possibly the first Artificial Intelligence, who happens to look (or be?) female. The ‘test’ is at first meant to be an updated Turing Test, in which if a human can talk with a robot and not tell it’s a robot, then it is in fact intelligent. Maybe. But the test goes way beyond the simple idea of self-aware ‘intelligence’, to emotions, and maybe more. The three main actors are all great, and engaging, including the amazing Alicia Vikander as the AI, Ava (named after Ava Lovelace, who some argue was the first computer programmer ever, and an amazing real life person). I felt like I too was being tested here, since I could not tell how much of Ava’s body and body movements were Vikander, and how much might be CGI. But Ava’s facial movements were all Vikander, being both ‘robotic’ but also weirdly human, as a weirdly curious human-looking creature that was designed to be…well, attractive. To Caleb and to us. But not just attractive, though that’s an important part. Rather, human. Or, alive. Because if Ava really is alive then…then what? So many questions and implications, which have appeared in other similar movies, from Blade Runner (maybe my all time favorite movie) to more recently her (2013) starring Joaquin Phoenix and the voice of Scarlett Johannson (for which I still think she should have won an Oscar)(but I also thought Wilson should have won Best Supporting Actor in Castaway (2000)) It’s nice to see Garland opting not to include a blockbuster mega-star who might overwhelm the movie. Instead, most of the budget, comparatively modest next to, say, Avengers) went into the effects, though that’s not to say that the effects overwhelmed anything either. They’d just good. No explosions, no car chases, just an amazingly real-looking robot. The title comes from the longer latin phrase “Deus Ex Machina” meaning ‘God from the Machine’, actually a writing term used to describe when a story builds to an impossible way to proceed or resolve, and suddenly something happens, some out-of-nowhere fact or person appears to (unbelievably) save the day. Doesn’t happen much nowadays, neither in books nor movies. Instead, Gardner is playing with the literal meaning of the phrase, on many levels. Because if Nathan has created life, does that make him a god? And/or, if Ava is really alive, and ‘more human than the human’, does that make her a god? And where does that leave us good ole regular humans? Ex Machina (2015)John's Rating5.0Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response 2015 Top Ten Favorite Movies - Psycho Drive-In January 10, 2016 […] I saw Ex Machina on May 12 (2015) for the purpose of writing a review of the film for Psycho Drive-In. However, as I was preparing to write my review of the movie nearly eight months ago, my managing editor, Paul Brian McCoy, told me that I didn’t need to write a review of it because he had received an unsolicited review of the film. You can read that review on Psycho Drive-In. […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.