Ex Machina (2014)

by The Movie Diorama

Ex Machina generates cerebral philosophies that both entertain and stimulate. As a computer programmer and all-round technologist, I’m consistently in awe of the advancements made in the development of artificial intelligence. It provides many discussions regarding moral implications, psychological awareness and the inevitable fear of transcendence (another film we shall not discuss…).

Ex Machina, for me, is the closest film to AI perfection that we’re ever going to receive. It is without a doubt, and this is me confidently stating the adjacent claim after my fifth viewing, a modern sci-fi gem. A programmer wins a competition to stay at his CEO’s luxurious home, where he is proposed to administer the Turing test to an artificially intelligent sentient robot.

Hollywood tends to exploit AI as villainous plot devices, that when turned on they instantly want to wipe out humanity from the face of the Earth. “Judgement Day” and all that “bio-digital jazz, man”. In reality, not the case. AI has to learn, it has to adapt and exhume the capabilities of thought and consciousness. The human approach is a fundamental aspect into making AI instinctively relatable, and Garland is the closest into realising this potential. His analytical screenplay is nothing short of genius.

Utilising the Turing test to intrinsically provide character driven backstory for Caleb, acting as psychological therapy driven by the sentient humanoid Ava. Exploring the integral complex of a “God”, including Nathan’s narcissism, and the moral implications of terminating Ava despite her awareness of death. An exercise in psychological manipulation, harnessing every accessible aspect of humanity including sexuality, imagination and self-awareness.

The fundamentalism behind the existential questioning is palpable. It’s captivating. It’s sublime. The intellectual approach and Promethean dialogue stimulates all senses. The Jackson Pollock remark, the programming of sexual orientation and even the Oppenheimer quote. Ironically self-aware dialogue that tickles the brain cells and continually divulges into omnipotent behaviour. Extraordinarily acute.

Initially, the premise looks to be a simple analytical test. However, the claustrophobic subterranean environment forces the dynamics between these three entities to become serrated, allowing us to question the identities and motives of these individuals. Garland unravels the thinly veiled mystery with confidence and minimalism, complementing the outstanding visual effects that exhume clinical aesthetics.

The excessive implementation of fluorescence, Ava’s pristine fiberglass body structure and the colourless architecture reflecting the egotism of Nathan. Always matching the euphoric polyphonic score that invites the viewer into this lair of deceit and beguilement. Forever enhancing Hardy’s gorgeous cinematography that delicately paints true intelligence through visceral shots of splendour, especially when using glass and mirrors to reflect and refract colour.

On a technical level, Ex Machina is perfect. On a literary level, Ex Machina is perfect. On a theatrical level, Ex Machina is perfect. Vikander, Gleeson and Isaac give three commanding performances, each offering a unique perspective on the technological advancements made in AI development that refers to our own reality.

My only gripe? The dance sequence. It doesn’t belong and provides an unnecessary distraction from the innovatory narrative. Many criticisms have been placed on the concluding ten minutes. I strongly disagree. Whilst it may seem unfair, it’s actually the only reasonable outcome and further illustrates why Garland understands AI. It demonstrates the inferiority of man, further cementing the fear of transcendence.

Ex Machina, despite the smooth moves presented by Isaac and Mizuno as they dance to “Get Down Saturday Night”, is a near-perfect representation of advanced AI. Utilising its technical astuteness to isolate fragments of consciousness that questions what it means to be human. And even if you aren’t into technology, it’s a stunningly written thriller that will induce a fear of everything computerised. Best not to use the microwave tonight…