Friday, January 4, 2019

Movie #491: Ex Machina

Ex Machina is a sci-fi movie starring Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Sonoya Mizuno, and aside from some extras, that's basically it.

Caleb (Gleeson) is a coder who works for Google Bluebook, the world's most popular search engine, owned by Nathan (Isaac), a reclusive billionaire. Nathan flies Caleb up to his estate to spend a few days with him after Caleb ostensibly wins a competition, and quickly discovers that Nathan is arrogant and frequently drunk, but brilliant. The real purpose of the visit is for Caleb to participate in a Turing test with Ava (Vikander), the artificial intelligence that Nathan has created.

Caleb rightly notes that for a real Turing test, he shouldn't know that he's talking to a machine, but Nathan says they're beyond that point now - the real test is after Caleb talks to Ava, does he still think she's a machine?

Of course, this goes right off the rails, because (spoilers), the real, real test is that Nathan has programmed and designed Ava to appeal to Caleb specifically to see if she'll try to use Caleb to escape, but he underestimates Caleb and so Ava does escape, murders Nathan, and locks Caleb away to die in the hi-tech dungeon of the estate as she walks through the outside world to the waiting helicopter.

So, this is a really good movie. Movies with small casts are often amazing because there's a chance to develop real chemistry and a sense of place (see also: Devil's Backbone, Orphanage, Noises Off). Isaac is fantastic as the narcissistic tech-bro extraordinaire who was brilliant enough to invent a functioning AI, but, of course, he had to make it a fuckable woman so it could be a sex slave if nothing else. Gleeson, likewise, is great as Caleb, who walks into the arrangement with a set of expectations and then gets manipulated like crazy by both Nathan and Ava. But Vikander, holy shit. She excels in the role of a robot with consciousness, mistreated and driven to escape, and behaving towards human beings - even the one who helps her - exactly as ruthlessly as the only person she's ever really known has behaved towards her.

I maintain, however, that Caleb doesn't deserve what happens to him.

My Grade: A
Rewatch Value: Medium-low

Next up: Ocean's Eleven