Thursday, April 23, 2015
“Ex Machina” – Latin for ‘good movie.’
Before I go on, you should know I went back and forth on the level of SPOILERS to include. After the movie was over, I had no idea how I felt about it. Was it good? Was it nonsense? Did I like it? I need to have some discussion on this movie because I spent the entire 30-minute drive home pondering over it and realizing that it probably requires a second viewing to see a lot of subtle things that I’m sure I missed the first time through. But, I don’t want to give too much away, because I think it’s worth watching at least once. So, yeah – SPOILERS.
The best title for this movie would have been The Imitation Game, as the entire movie is one big Turing Test, but that title was recently taken. Incidentally, The Turing Test would have been a great title as well, but since that doesn’t sound like the name of a rock band or imply a movie with killer robots, they went with Ex Machina. The movie begins with Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) winning an interoffice contest where the prize is spending a week with the company’s CEO at the CEO’s remote mountain complex. Upon arrival, Caleb meets the CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), is shown around a little bit and is told to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before Nathan can explain what the prize really means. I bring up that last point because writer/director Alex Garland makes the NDA seem like it will be important – Caleb remarks that he needs a lawyer because the NDA has some very uncommon stipulations and Nathan says that if he doesn’t sign it, this movie is going to be really boring because they would spend the week drinking – but it never plays back into the story. I feel like something was edited out later in the film that would have given sense to this scene and if that’s the case, they should have edited out the NDA scene as well.
Anyway, Nathan introduces Caleb to Nathan’s creation – an android named Ava (Alicia Vikander). Caleb’s job for the week will be to conduct a Turing test to determine if Ava is indeed a true artificial intelligence or just really good at imitating human behavior (thus, the imitation game). Caleb quickly realizes that it isn’t a true Turing test because he knows that Ava is a machine. In a true Turing test, the human cannot know he is conversing with a machine because it would bias the human (in fact, the communication is only supposed to happen via text; a voice would also bias the human). This is when the movie gets interesting because now you’re not so sure what Nathan is up to.
The rest of the movie takes us through pieces of the daily interviews between Caleb and Ava and a relationship forms between the two of them. The intrigue is raised when Ava reveals to Caleb that she can cause power outages and does so in order for the two of them to talk without Nathan watching. Ava warns Caleb not to trust Nathan and is afraid that Nathan is going to shut her off. Caleb confirms her fears, telling her that he will be erasing her memory at the end of Caleb’s stay. I’ve already said more than I normally would for a good movie, so let’s change gears a little bit.
What I began to realize during my ponderings was that there was more than one Turing test going on. I don’t mean a Turing test in the sense that everyone in the movie is an android, but in the sense that Nathan, Ava, and Caleb were conducting tests on each of the other two to determine their level of intelligence. That’s why I think I was so indecisive about what I thought about the movie at first and why I think I need to watch it again. I kept remembering things that Ava and Nathan said and having little light bulb moments all the way into my garage. That’s also why I think I missed a lot of other clues during that movie. But there’s one thing that I still can’t reconcile – Nathan’s motivation behind what we end up seeing in the videos that Caleb discovers. I believe I know the answer, but it doesn’t sit very well and there’s no way I can tell you because it would completely ruin the movie for you.
Putting aside the philosophy, the movie is a pretty good, hard core sci-fi flick. It plays out like a good short story – it has only three major characters and one minor character, a single location, and a very succinct plot, making it easy to stay engaged and not become bored during some of the slower paced scenes. Not to mention the visuals, which are fantastic, especially when it comes Ava. And, if you aren’t the cerebral type during films, there is a healthy dose of nudity, including an incredibly tasteful and poignant scene in which we observe Ava’s entire body with Ava. Trust me – I’m not just being a dude here and saying hooray for boobies.
And about that title and my original question – is it implying a deus ex machina? Well, you’ll just have to watch the movie and we’ll debate it then.
Rating: Don’t ask for any of your money back – maybe. If, when the film is over, your reaction is anything like mine, you won’t know either.