Thursday, 24 November 2016

Ex Machina (2015)

Caleb is a young programmer who wins a competition to spend a week with his reclusive employer, on the other man's private estate.  When Caleb arrives, he finds there is more to this prize than just seven days of luxurious surrounds.  He'll also be participating in a Turing Test - interacting with an AI created by the other man and assessing whether it truly possesses consciousness or if it is simply performing a good simulation.

Because this is a movie, said AI has a female robotic body and the face of Alicia Vikander.  Caleb and Ava - as the AI is known - quickly strike up a rapport.  Certainly he seems to find her company more enjoyable than that of his decidedly odd employer, Nathan.

Ex Machina is a film that attempts to tackle some big issues about morality and humanity: if a machine is self aware, is it murder to wipe its memory banks?  How do we identify that self awareness to begin with?  And how does the way an entity looks impact our assessment?  And if the movie doesn't present empiric answers to most of the questions it asks, well I don't think that providing answers was actually the point (Nor do I think you'd get good ones in a 100 minute film).  The questions themselves are the point.

Overall I liked Ex Machina quite a bit.  It's not without weaknesses, mind you.  There are some pretty prosaic "wait, how does that work?" elements to the estate that get rather glossed over, for instance, and Nathan does come across as the kind of character who only exists in fiction - though credit goes to actor Oscar Isaac for making him as plausible and engaging as possible.  I also felt like the film fumbles things a bit in the final act.  I'm not referring to the very end, which I quite liked, but to the twenty minutes or so before it.  The film's one action-y scene doesn't work too well, and there's a longish nude scene that feels like it lingers rather longer that it needed to for its narrative purpose.

In the final assessment, if you're interested in a more cerebral kind of science fiction film - particularly one that would pair well with Blade Runner - then this is worth your time.

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