It’s no secret that I am a HUGE fan of what I’ve in the past called “classy science fiction”. That is to say, sci-fi which tackles broader, more serious topics and how they relate to the human experience. Alex Garland’s Ex Machina fits this description perfectly and captures the imagination whilst simultaneously offering a frightening and realistic example of the future of artificial intelligence.
The movie stars Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb, a talented young programmer working for Bluebook, the world largest search engine. After being selected for a secret weekend at a remote compound owned by the company’s founder Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) Caleb learns he is to administer the Turing Test to an exciting new humanoid robot with astounding AI. Caleb learns his task is to see how he relates to “Ava” despite knowing she is a machine. Over the course of the week, Caleb finds himself being drawn deeper and deeper into Ava’s psyche and begins to empathize with her situation. Ava’s imprisonment inside the compound coupled with her apparent human like intelligence causes some profound moral questions in both the viewer and Caleb. Particularly when Ava manages to short circuit the facilities security system and speak candidly with Caleb, where she reveals that all is not what it seems.
Calling into question humanities right to create such life, Ex Machina crafts a beautiful reality; one which we as a species are fast approaching. AI has long been a deep rooted human fascination and the film manages to capture the love and fear we are certain to have for these intelligent machines when we do in fact create them. As is said by Nathan in the film, it was not a matter of if, but a matter of when.
As you watch Caleb interact with Ava you begin to question how you would feel in the same situation. Simultaneously, you’re left thinking about the broader question of whether or not you consider Ava to be a human equivalent. If she looks, acts, and feels like a human both internally and externally, does that make her human? Touching upon a multitude of these themes, the film does what any great sci-fi film should in that causes you to question the very essence of what it means to be alive while managing to avoid cliché. After many great moments, the film’s ending is both surprising and exciting making Ex Machina one of the best sci-fi films I’ve ever seen.