Saturday, May 16, 2015

Ex Machina (2015)

Director: Alex Garland
Writer:    Alex Garland
Cast:       Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Issac, Alicia Vikander

A young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I (Alicia Vikander). The guy who selected him (Oscar Issac) had made money through his search engine business and while all other search engine innovators concentrated on just making money by using it to figure out what people were thinking, he used it to make his A.I by finding out how people think. The experiment that he wants the young programmer to conduct is of course the Turing Test

A.I and the warnings against it have been in the news recently with both Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk expressing concerns about it. We already had a film on the subject last year, the Johnny Depp starrer 'Transcendence', but it was ultimately a misfire with really poor script and performances even though it managed to convey the scale of the problems that humans could encounter with A.I. When put against that film, Ex Machina, is a master class about film making and the importance of the way a story is told to make them work. We are hooked from the first scene itself with an overall mystery surrounding everything and we are second guessing the director almost the whole way through. One can of course say that figuring out the twist is not that difficult considering you are continually trying to outsmart the filmmaker but he gets one over you by not going overboard with the twist. Another great thing he does is that he goes about 'AI being bad' in a matter of fact fashion without  relying on gunfire, explosions and shit like that. At the end of it you don't have a good/bad question regarding the characters in which I include the A.I. There is a moment in film where the programmer does a reverse Turing test by doubting whether he was in fact an A.I by cutting himself up and checking for some machinery inside him. 

Alex Garland was previously involved in Danny Boyle films 28 Days Later and Sunshine and he is making his directorial debut with Ex Machina. It is beautifully shot in a claustrophobic manner even though the house is nestled by exquisite surroundings. Performances are excellent and the expositions are done smoothly considering that there is some explaining to do. I really don't think you need much knowledge about A.I and Turing Test to understand the film but it would help in appreciating the questions and answers coming out of the Turing Test and the their discussion about it. There is even a reference to that famous scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, of Hal watching the two astronomers talk, but this time it is the two A.Is who are talking without us humans hearing what they are saying. Overall it is a magnificent watch.

Rating: 4.5/5