SCI-FI; 1hr 48min
STARRING: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander
Face time: Vikander (left) and Sonoya Mizuno
In theory, a machine is no longer just a machine when its artificial intelligence is so advanced that it has the ability to think, and perhaps feel, for itself. Meet Ava (Testament of Youth ’s Vikander), the groundbreaking creation of reclusive robotics pioneer Nathan (the chameleonic Isaac, a shaved and bearded world away from the coolly elegant businessman of A Most Violent Year).
Nathan is a colossally rich, bumptious, off-centre drunk. The brilliantly executed Ava is spindly, mechanistic, ethereal and unreadable. For 26-year-old computer programmer Caleb (Unbroken’s Gleeson) — caught between his boss and the ’bot as a guinea pig in an interactional experiment known as a Turing Test to determine Ava’s sentience — her feline sensitivity is hopelessly seductive. As Caleb and Ava’s conversations draw them closer and Nathan’s erratic dominance intensifies, the playing field is dramatically redefined.
Ex Machina is a directorial first for novelist and screenwriter Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later), whose reality’s edge grip is glassily polished until its white-knuckle dynamic goes to hell in a Westworld-style handbasket in the final stretch. Raising innovative questions is a fine and fascinating art. Finessing the answers is even more important.