Roll Film with Ex Machina

Charlie Barron, Reporter

Alex Garland made his directorial debut with 2014’s Ex Machina, a sci-fi film that explored the emerging presence of artificial intelligence in the modern world. The general premise of the film is that a tech billionaire (Oscar Issac) invites a common programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) to test his new robot (Alicia Vikander) to see if she is actually conscious. Ava, the robot character, is by far the most present element in the film’s iconography. The slightly off putting appearance mixes see-through robot skin and Vikander’s actual face and hands and feet, creating an interesting look. The look summarizes exactly the inner conflict that makes up her existence as a character, as she is a robot and has visible robotic parts, but her human face and limbs look completely human. Vikander actually wore a detailed fake robot suit with small visual effects added on to create more of a real effect. 

Being released and set in the year 2014, it connects with the actual world at the time in a unique way. Nathan, the billionaire played by Oscar Issac, is CEO of a fake Google/Microsoft alternative called Blue Book. Although Blue Book is never actually seen or elaborated upon, it is the catalyst for all the events of the movie. Nathan states that part of the reason that he was able to make such a humanoid AI was by exploiting the data of Blue Book’s users, like many tech companies are guilty of doing in real life.. The film is most concerned with bracing an AI based future before it is actually here, as seen through the relationships between Nathan and Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) and Ava. The back and forth between Caleb and Ava is the central part of the story, as many films separate scenes with chapter markings, this film separates scenes by identifying which sessions of Ava’s testing is taking place. The ultimate trick of the film is making the audience believe that Caleb is the character testing Ava. Throughout the slowly unraveling story, the film then presents the idea that maybe Ava has been conducting the tests the entire time. 

Ex Machina deals with the difficult task that most sci-fi’s deal with, which is “how do I make a profound statement about the role of technology in society but also be fresh and entertaining?” Garland’s writing is equipped to deal with this issue, as the brief run time of the film puts it at 108 minutes. Although a serious story, the film does insert a lot of brevity from the back and forth from Oscar Issac and Domhnall Gleeson and through the wild imagery that is created in between sessions, including dream sequences featuring the robot going out into the woods for the first time. Ex Machina is waiting to be seen on HBO Max and is one of the best sci-fi’s in recent memory.