“EX MACHINA” My rating: B+ (Opens on April 24)
108 minutes | MPAA rating: R
The computer or robot that turns on its human creators is one of science fiction’s more popular tropes, sparking films as diverse as “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “The Terminator.”
“Ex Machina” offers one of the more disquieting takes on that idea, delivering a compact four-character pressure-cooker drama that leaves audiences convinced that the creation of artificial intelligence inevitably will lead to humanity’s destruction.
The directing debut of Alex Garland (the screenwriter behind “28 Days Later…” and “Sunshine”), unfolds on the remote estate of Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a Jobs-ian genius and multi-billionaire thanks to the Internet search engine he created at age 13.
We meet Nathan through Caleb (Domhall Gleeson), a lowly computer programer who has won a company-wide contest to spend a week with his boss. This is a very big deal, since Nathan has not made a public appearance in years and lives alone in a high-tech home/laboratory built into a mountainside near the Arctic Circle.
Caleb is what you expect from a computer programmer — smart and dweeby. Nathan, on the other hand, is a force of nature, a sort of scientific Paul
Bunyan with shaved head and Mennonite beard who, when he’s not playing mad scientist, is furiously lifting weights.
Early on Nathan — who works overtime to give the impression that he’s just one a normal dude — confides that Caleb is here to help him test his newest creation. It’s an android he calls Ava (Alicia Vikander), and he wants the programmer to perform a series of “Turing tests” — conversations with Ava from which Caleb will deduce whether she’s just a smartly programmed machine or a genuine individual capable of original thought and emotion.
Caleb is wowed by his first encounter with Ava, whose body consists of a mesh exoskeleton through which he can see her metal “bones” and the blinking lights of various hard drives. Her movements are accompanied by the hum of her internal hydraulics. Only her face, hands and feet have been covered with a material that approximates human flesh.
Over several days Caleb befriends Ava, who evolves from a sort of quiet diffidence to eager participant.
“Are you attracted to me?” she asks, remarking on “the way your eyes focus on my eyes and lips.”
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