director Alex Garland
viewed: 05/24/2015 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA
Artificial Intelligence is having a cinematic moment. From Spike Jonze’s Her (2013), the spectrum reaches to even Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and probably an ongoing litany of films regarding the current science fiction concern du jour.
Film, especially big Hollywood movies, are long in gestation and to say that they have their fingers on a cultural pulse reflects at least some foresight of notion, ideas in planning years before they reach an audience. But popular culture is popular culture and revolves around the content that is in commodity at a given time. AI isn’t anything new, though its reality outside of the fictions of speculation is ever-nearer.
Alex Garland’s Ex Machina is an elegant, intelligent thriller, as well as a directorial debut for the writer behind such films as The Beach (1996) (source novel), 28 Days Later… (2002), Sunshine (2007), and Dredd (2012). Garland has obviously been paying attention on the movies on which he’s worked. This is a polished, good-looking film, easily one of the better movies of the year.
Domhnall Gleeson plays Caleb, a young, idealistic computer engineer who is singled out by his reclusive, genius boss Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaacs), a sort of evil Elon Musk type, secreted away to his isolated compound, and introduced to Nathan’s pet project, an extremely advanced humanoid robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander). Caleb is tasked with running a Turing test on her, attempting to prove that Nathan has achieved the actuality of true artificial intelligence.
Nathan, however, is quite the manipulator, not only of Ava but of Caleb. The levels of deception and suggestion unfold as the egocentric and unlikable super genius proves himself perhaps not only a misogynist but perhaps the world’s greatest misanthrope. The film slues heavily on the empathies and misogynies at the heart of the scenario.
The only question I had was how would someone so emotionally disconnected be able to contrive a creation of such sensate emotionalism? Maybe algorithms are all you need.
Anyways, quite a good movie.