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1-UK_Ava-AW__Close-Crop_28198-Ex_MachinaWhat’s it all about?

A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.

Why did I want to see it?

Ex Machina is one of those films that I knew very little about in advance, but an article in Empire magazine and their strong review, plus a cool trailer and poster campaign and a real interest in AI and associated matters meant this was one not to be missed.

What did I think of it?

Wow. I know we’re only at the end of January but I will be very surprised if this isn’t one of my favourite films of the year. I thought it was fantastic, well-written, beautifully performed and very very clever.

So in terms of the set-up, what we have is a young man, Caleb (Domhnall Gleason) who works for a tech company and wins a competition to spend a week with the reclusive owner of the company, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), at his fabulous retreat in the middle of nowhere. When he gets there it’s clear he’s not just having out, but is expected to carry out the Turing test on Ava (Alice Vikander), designed to assess whether an AI has consciousness. What’s unusual about this case is that Caleb already knows that Ava is an AI (in fact a cyborg) and the question isn’t just does she have conscious awareness but can she develop affection. Of course there is much more to it than that, and in the claustrophobic setting it becomes clear very quickly that things aren’t quite what they seem.

It’s quite a wordy film in that all three of the main characters discuss the nature of being human and other philosophical concepts at length, but this doesn’t detract from what is also a very tense thriller.

As I said, all the performances are great; Alice Vikander in particular uses her training as a dancer to give Ava a very particular means of moving which feels slightly other. The film lingers on her physical appearance in a voyeuristic way which would be uncomfortable in other circumstances but makes sense in the context of what’s actually going on here. Gleason is very personable and our way into the story, the person we’re connect with the most easily, but Nathan is the most interesting character of all in terms of his motivation and his ability and desire to manipulate others. I actually rather liked him, though I suspect I wasn’t supposed to, because there was something attractive about his total self-absorption and confidence. However, I imagine if I met him in real life I would run very quickly in the opposite direction.

I have already pre-ordered the DVD as I know this is a film I will want to watch more than once. Loved it. Highly recommended if you like intelligent science-fiction.

I will count this towards Carl’s 2015 Sci-fi Experience.