Find Me At Screen Rant

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ex Machina



Metropolis, Austin Powers, Fry from Futurama, and now Alex Garland's sleek, dazzling Ex Machina is the latest to warn the human race of the dangers of the beautiful fembot. Will we ever listen? Hopefully never. In Ex Machina, Domhnall Gleeson, a bright, talented programmer at Google-like search engine Bluebook, is selected to win a fabulous week with Bluebook's hermit-like founder played by Oscar Isaac. Gleeson is whisked by helicopter to Isaac's isolated underground laboratory in the middle of nowhere. He finds that the mysterious Isaac is an unexpected piece of work, equal parts sinister genius, swaggering alpha male jock, and alcoholic bully. Also, he cuts a mean rug on the dance floor when he wants to. Isaac has been laboring in secret on the most astounding technological breakthrough in the history of man (or "the history of gods," Gleeson offers to Isaac's delight): true artificial intelligence. And of course (boys will be boys), he encased his miraculous A.I. in the (half-built) form of a beautiful woman: Ava (Alicia Vikander).

Gleeson's job is to have a series of sessions with Ava and apply the Turing Test, as created by Alan Turing (see Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game), to gauge how self-aware Ava is. (Sort of like the Voight-Kamf test assigned to Replicants in Blade Runner.) Gleeson's job is not to fall in love (or lust) with Ava, but can one really expect otherwise from a clever but sullen computer nerd with no family or relationships whom, he mused to Isaac, was likely "selected because of his porn profile"? Isaac is considerably less encouraging company for Gleeson than Ava is; Isaac alternates from palling around with him like two bros would to intimidating threats and quizzical mind fucks. But the real mystery is Ava herself and what's behind her repeatedly shutting down Issac's security systems so she can speak to Gleeson privately, and her sweet pleas to go on dates with Gleeson. There's also the sultry presence of Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno), the mute knockout who tends to Isaac hand and foot and placidly accepts his foul-tempered bullying. What's her story? It's not hard to guess the answers, which arrive slam-bang, as the situation in the underground lab goes awry in bloody, tragic fashion.

Ex Machina deliberately, confidently unfurls as a gripping contest of wills between Gleeson and Isaac, as each becomes increasingly suspicious of the other's actions and motives. The conversations between man and man, and man and machine, are laced with depth and dripping with big ideas pondering the ramifications of what Isaac has potentially wrought upon the world. Meanwhile, is Ava playing both men against each other? What is Ava really up to? As Ava, Vikander is a stunning revelation and instantly becomes one of the most unforgettable robots in cinema. Also, as seen with Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin, the hot new trend in movies nowadays seems to be gorgeous aliens/robots checking themselves out nude in the mirror. Will the world be better off with Ava unleashed in it? We'll have to ask the next (un)lucky guys who try to see what's under her skin. It's safe to say, Man will simply never learn: