It is a seemingly hollow thriller, which suggests more about artificial intelligence than any film has ever done before.
In a recent interview, actress Alicia Vikander stated: “It’s quite rare to pick up a script and get so sucked into it, that you read it the same way you would read a book.” Yet what she says is inherent to Alex Garland’s Ex Machina. Similar to his work as a novelist, the film never feels like something is missing. Every element seemingly worthy of inclusion slots into the script effortlessly, but more noticeably it’s chronologically sound.
Focusing on a computer programmer’s (Domnhall Gleeson) assignment in testing new AI (Alicia Vikander), Ex Machina explores a life where conscious artificial intelligence is almost complete, with the possibility of humanity changing incomprehensively.
Enhanced by the scenery, the film is set largely in a high security building placed far into an unknown forest, surround by impassable mountains. The setting creates an emptiness that offers a perception of claustrophobia. Ex Machina attempts to show us that nature is never far from nurture, no matter how we try to avoid the fact.
Meanwhile, the film is purposefully proposing more questions than it answers, but this isn’t necessarily a problem. What it allows for is a test of moral integrity. Not just for the on-screen characters, but for each viewer inside the theatre.
By doing this it creates a sense of horror. A feeling of blame, that not only plays with the idea of movement towards the unknown, but at the same time a notion towards an unavoidable helplessness.
This isn’t the first instance of cinema taking up similar questions. Blade Runner offered comparable ideas 33 years ago, which itself was based on a novel published in 1968. Yet the way in which Ex Machina proposes its ideas feels polished and more importantly real. Blade Runner was made to feel far off and futuristic. Ex Machina was made to feel achievable.
It doesn’t contain the action of the Terminator franchise, or the grittiness of Blade Runner. It holds it’s own agenda as robotics enters an era of cleanliness, which never seems wholly understandable.
It could be called a quiet masterpiece, with its perfect visual effects, and a soundtrack that chills to the bone. Yet Ex Machina is more than that. It is a seemingly hollow thriller, which suggests more about artificial intelligence than any film has ever done before.
“If you’ve created a conscious machine, that’s not the history of man. That’s the history of gods.” – Domhnall Gleeson, Ex Machina (2015).