The best film I’ve seen this year is Ex Machina, which ranks near Bladerunner in its story of artificial intelligence creatures and their interactions with humans.
Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a 26-year-old coder for a large search engine. He wins a company-wide lottery and is chosen to spend a week with the company’s founder, the just slightly older Nathan (Oscar Issac) at Nathan’s remote mountain hideaway.
After a copter ride over miles of wilderness, Caleb makes his way to Nathan’s crib and meets the quirky genius. Nathan tells Caleb about Ava (Alicia Vikander), a robot Nathan has created that Caleb will evaluate over the next few days.
Caleb never gets comfortable. His room, and much of the building, has no windows. There are occasional power shutdowns. Nathan counters his drinking binges with extreme workouts. Nathan speaks to his female Japanese housemaid (Sonoya Mizuno) abusively.
Caleb has daily sessions with Ava where they converse but are separated by glass. Following the sessions, Nathan debriefs Caleb.
As the week progresses, Caleb’s curiosity about Ava and her capabilities grows. As with Deckard and Rachael in Bladerunner, Caleb and Ava appear to be developing genuine affection for one another, which helps set up the story’s climax.
Rookie director Alex Garland makes a smashing debut in a film that is understated. This movie depends more on a thoughtful script (Garland wrote it) than on effects and tricks. The focus on conversations makes Ex Machina a film that, with a few accommodations, could be presented as a stage play.
With a small group of actors carrying the film, casting and performances are crucial. Issac and Gleeson, in their portrayals of these brainy nerds, are fun to watch in their interactions. Vikander brings appropriate restraint to her role as the gorgeous robot Ava. Bravo to all three!
One reviewer quoted in the above trailer called Ex Machina “an instant classic.” For any fan of great movies, I recommend it. For any fan of great sci-fi, Ex Machina is a must-see.