Gripping, intense and elegant. Ex_Machina is one of those films where it's better going in knowing nothing at all, as even just the tiniest hint or detail could spoil the entire film. Despite a slow start, something common among thrillers, the pace picks up without you even realising and suddenly an overwhelming number of twists and turns are thrown at you with an ending that completely throws you off guard, even when it's being played out clearly in front of you you still won't believe it. I guarantee you will spend the rest of your day questioning the entire thing and to be honest, just life itself, it really does mess with your head. Director and screenwriter Alex Garland somehow managed to successfully execute a simple storyline that deals with such complex issues, something he managed to balance effectively. The concept for the film revolves around the Turing experiment, an experiment named after Alan Turing following his suggestion that one day machines could display signs of artificial intelligence similar to actions displayed by humans. It's an idea that many different people have explored or considered. A part of us thinks it could be amazing but at the same a part of us can't ignore the darker aspect to it. If you've ever seen the Channel 4 sci-fi drama series Humans, you'll definitely know what i mean by this. This film expertly deals with the scientific nature of the experiment, without boring those of us who think of science as a whole different language, and playing it out for us on screen. For many of us this will be the closest insight into this experiment we'll ever get, even if it just through fiction that's still pretty damn exciting.
The film follows through the eyes of Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a computer programmer, on his trip to a secluded estate, home to Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) the billionaire owner of the company Caleb works for. Caleb has been picked after winning a competition within the company that picked somebody out randomly. But was it actually randomly generated at all? That's something you can decide for yourself. Caleb is under the impression that he will be spending the week with Nathan, a man who he has great respect for, but little does he know that he has been brought there to take part in the Turing experiment. Nathan has created an AI called Ava (Alicia Vikander), giving the machine a gender, a pretty face and a flirty nature. All of these characteristics combined make it almost impossible for Caleb not to fall for her to some extent. Ava has already passed a simple Turing test that explores whether she can think for herself. Over a series of sessions, Caleb is tested on whether he believes Ava is capable of having a conscious mind that has the ability to develop feelings towards others and if he is able to relate to her as though she was a human not a machine.
The cast features three well-known stars who have played parts in other successful films with both Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac starring in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Alicia Vikander starring in the Academy Award winning film The Danish Girl. In my opinion the cast was picked perfectly, featuring stars with relative fame who haven't been pigeonholed by previous roles. Vikander definitely deserves a lot of praise for her role after her exquisite representation of a robot. Without a doubt, her role was definitely one that was hard to perfect, having to display both robotic and human characteristics and mannerisms to the extent where even the audience are left questioning whether she is more human or robot along with Caleb. Gleeson fits the nerdy, almost loner yet happy type of character that Caleb is that you can't help but feel bad for, especially after he confides in Ava telling her about the death of his parents when he was a teenager. However, as good as the characters are it would be hard to say that as an audience member you personally like any of them. Nathan gives off the impression that he is very manipulative and maybe isn't being completely truthful about the nature of the experiment, Ava is an AI who makes us feel uncomfortable to some extent as we are never sure what she is actually thinking, and to be honest if she is even thinking anything at all. It's not that you dislike her, but you can't help but feel confused about her. Then Caleb, arguably the main character as we see everything through his eyes, seems stable at the beginning but as the film moves on you can see him slowly losing his mind.
The production for the film was amazing, especially when their low budget is taken into consideration. All of the production effects were added in post-production including the making of Ava's AI suit, which made her half human half robot. When you see how detailed her suit is and how lifelike it is it's hard to believe that the film had the budget that it did. The film even won the Academy award for Best Visual Effects, so if you don't believe me i think the award speaks for itself. The sound used in the film was very different to most films. The majority of the film is in complete silence other than dialogue, I'm not going to lie it feels pretty uncomfortable but I guess that's the whole point of the film really. When they do use music you can tell it has been carefully picked out. The song that stuck out most to me featured in probably the weirdest scene in the whole film, where Nathan and his housekeeper start dancing to Get Down Saturday Night by Oliver Cheatham. Despite it's weirdness it definitely has a complete contrast to the tone of the rest of the film.
There are definitely a lot of moral and ethical issues and questions surrounding the nature of the film. I mean first of all it's dealing with the concept of a robot with the ability to think and feel like a human, something which so far has only been in question but no evidence has ever truly supported it. The idea that robots could have artificial intelligence introduces the suggestion that it's possible that machines could take over if they have higher intelligence than us. If the experiment were to be proven true, that machines could develop true thoughts and feelings then it seems unfair to use them as a way of testing our theories and experimenting on them. Also, if it was proven true would this mean that we would turn to using robots for further experiments with the knowledge that they would react the same as a human would? The other ethical and moral issues that I noticed don't necessarily correlate with the idea of robots but it is about the sexual, and quite sexist, nature of the film. I mean I'm no feminist by any means but I bet that if a group of feminists did see the film they would have a field trip picking out all of the aspects that are 'wrong' within the film. The director/screenwriter for the film was male and so were the producers, and I hate to say it but you can kind of tell. There is a lot of nudity in the film, which does mean it's definitely not for those who are easily offended, and the only people ever to be shown nude are female characters. This goes for women who don't even have a character name, speaking role or even a part in the film really. There is also a conversation that happens between Caleb and Nathan where Nathan addresses the issue that he think Caleb wants to know about and clarifies that Caleb can in fact 'screw' Ava and that he has created her so that she will 'enjoy it'. There are a lot of issues surrounding this, more than just the fact that if Caleb did in fact do this then he would have had sex with a robot - which let's be honest is wrong on so many different levels. Nathan's housekeeper, Kyoko, is used as his sex slave and she isn't able to communicate with him. So technically, he is raping her - not the nicest thing to do but pretty quickly you learn that Nathan isn't one of the nicest guys going.
However, despite all of this I really enjoyed the film. It isn't for those easily offended or any of you true feminists out there but it really is a good watch. I think it tackles a really interesting idea in more detail than we have really heard before and like I said before it gives us a close look into the experiment that most of will probably never get to see.