Ex_Machina: A Review

Do you know what it feels like to be duped?  That feeling you get when you know you’ve been outsmarted.  Its not very nice, is it?  Perhaps you thought you were clever, thriving on it.  Then someone comes along and shows you how foolish you can be.

So I guess my take on this film is this; its smart, very smart.  A thought provoking film that will lead you one way and yet be heading in an entirely different one.  That, my friends, is the hallmark of a great story.

The premise is this, a man wins a competition to spend a week with his boss.  Not just any boss, the boss, the owner of the company he works for.  The winning and the journey are irrelevant except to give a sense of remoteness to where he ends up.

On arrival Caleb, the winner, discovers the ulterior motive.  He is to help perform a Turing Test on an AI the boss has built.  For those who don’t know, a Turing Test is used to see if a candidate can pass as being human.  In this case the AI is a female called Ava.

Throughout the week Caleb and Ava learn about each other.  Not content to leave them to it Nathan (the boss) watches them through a CCTV system.  After all, he needs to observe the test in order to have a point of reference when comparing notes with Caleb.

As new pieces of information come to light, you begin to empathise with the characters.  Trapped in the wilderness they are, in essence, in a cage of their own making.  Who is the caged and who is the keeper?  That is the question.

So it is a given that things start to go wrong.  How and why, I will not reveal but it does add tension to the story.  Over the course of the film they help to reveal loyalties between the parties.  Which all aids to inform their behaviour.

I can’t help but imagine what must have been going through Caleb’s mind over the course of the week.  Who does he trust?  His unsavoury boss or the woman who’s caught his attention?

This film could not have worked without three great actors.  Domnall Gleeson expertly plays a tentative yet thoughtful, Caleb.  Alicia Verkander performs wonderfully as Ava.  Without her wiles working their magic this film would not be as good as it is.  Finally we come to Oscar Issac.  As Nathan, he plays a pretty damn good antagonist to Gleeson’s naive looking protagonist.

As each character is significantly different, they are easy to get into.  But the depth each actor brings to their role makes them feel alive.

Credit must also go to Alex Garland who wrote the story.  I think we forget that if it wasn’t for the story, there would be no film.  If this is what he comes up with, I can’t wait to be outsmarted again.


When I bought this film, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into.  Sure, I’d seen the trailer, but that barely skimmed the surface.  What we have here, is a skillfully crafted story of a man’s relationship with an artificially intelligent operating system called Samantha.

Before we go any further, I’d like to point out that there are no spoilers.  Now that sticky wicket is out of the way, let’s get down to it.

This film is a powerful and moving story of a man called Theodore who has given up on love.  Considering his job, this can’t have been easy for him.  He is reminded on a daily basis of just how wonderful this emotion is.  But it is like he is existing in a world that is familiar, but no longer belongs to him.

Like all love films, a new interest arrives in his life.  A gentle spark of happiness and kookiness (can an AI even be kooky?) that triggers something in him.  The journey is of course fraught with the ups and downs of reality.  So much so that I wondered if it would turn out okay in the end.

While watching the film, I found his friend’s and colleague’s acceptance of his love for a machine, somewhat unsettling.  That is what this film is about, though.  It is meant to challenge our way of thinking.  Is it morally wrong to fall in love with an AI?  The second point it raises, is to show just how easy it is.

In a strange way, I can see it happening already.  People meet online to talk, to play, to socialise.  We’ve heard stories of men playing as women and vice versa, so its not that big a leap to use a machine.

At the moment our current AI incarcerations come across as petulant pre-teens.  Given time though, it is quite possible a full-blown adult (by that I mean, fully developed and mature) AI will be the norm.  I’m sure some people will be outraged and claim this will be the death knell for humanity, but that doesn’t give this race the credit it deserves.  There is a need for vigilance, however.

Casting Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore was an excellent decision.  He didn’t just make Theodore likeable, he was positively human.  His performance was difficult to watch at times, why, because I could see elements of myself in him.

So, could I love an AI just as he did.  Yes, I probably could.  Does that disturb me? Just a little.


Now that I have given my opinion of this film, I’d like to hear what you think.