2015 first brought us Chappie and now Ex Machina. Steven Spielberg would be proud of the descendants of A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001).
Is it possible that a man could play God by replicating the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden? Since we are told that God created woman from Adam’s rib, what would result if man could create a modern-day Eve in the form of a robot who could think and function as a human being?
Writer/Director Alex Garland confronts that story in the intriguing Ex Machina. Oscar Isaac plays Nathan, a reclusive Silicon Valley billionaire living in a gigantic estate somewhere in Alaska. A programmer in Nathan’s company, Caleb Smith (a sterling performance by Domhnal Gleeson), wins a contest where he thinks he will spend a week to provide assistance to his boss. Instead, Caleb learns on his arrival that he has been chosen to be a participant in evaluating the human consciousness in Nathan’s hidden attempt to create artificial intelligence.
Caleb quickly meets his assignment, Ava, a beautiful woman who is part robot. Caleb’s assignment is to spend one week with Ava as a part of a process known as the Turing Test, named after Alan Turing, whose tragic history was recently seen in the splendid The Imitation Game.
Without giving anything away, imagine that Eve got bored with her tedious life in Paradise and decided that it would be far easier to eat Satan’s apple, dispose of a chauvinistic Adam and move on to find friends in a better world.
Mr. Isaac, unrecognizable with a shaved head and a large beard, plays a genius who works hard by day and drinks himself into oblivion every evening. He’s not particularly likeable, but his performance is far better than found in either Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) or last year’s A Most Violent Year.
On the other hand, this movie centers on Alicia Vikander’s role as Ava, and you can’t take your eyes off of her. Part victim and part schemer, she tolerates a creator whom she despises. While Caleb wants to help Ava’s attempt to flee an environment where she is constantly kept behind glass walls, his sexual attraction to Ava becomes a deadly weakness.
As a male member of the audience, you gradually accompany Caleb on an emotional journey filled with uncertainty. Yes, Ava is a robot, but she is also a beautiful “woman” in need, and what man could say no? After all, apples are good for you, aren’t they?
There are marvelous moments throughout this film, not the least of which is Mr. Isaac’s dance sequence with another female robot. You gradually are left wondering if he is dedicated to perfecting the development of artificial intelligence or simply trying to find a way to run his own house of prostitution.
This movie will intrigue you, and I can assure you that you are not likely to forget it.