How much do you trust your computer? Your cell phone company? Your search engine? If you have any trust in these things at all, the new psychological thriller Ex Machina will completely rid your system of that comfort level with technology.
Ex Machina follows the story of Nathan, an eccentric millionaire who develops an advanced artificial intelligence system, and Caleb, a man who finds himself in a battle of wits against the intriguing AI named Ava. Caleb is given one week to interact with Ava to prove or disprove her design as advanced enough to pass off as a human being. He must accomplish this task under the watchful eye of Ava’s creator, Nathan, who gives the impression of mistrust as soon as you meet him.
On a surface level, this is a simple film about two white men trying to play God — and on some level succeeding. Before you get too curious, no, there are not many people of color in this film (nothing new there, right?). But beyond that initial summation, it’s a movie about man’s constant desire to reach the unattainable and what could happen when that unattainable thing is finally reached.
Ava is designed for a singular purpose, unbeknownst to the viewer as well as to Caleb who assesses her on a daily basis. I’m not going to hit you with any spoilers, but when her purpose is brought to light in the latter half of the movie, the action takes a turn that I doubt many moviegoers will see coming. Between the dialogue, the scenery, and the plot twists, the film pulls you into its world and does not release you from its grip. At all. When the credits began to roll I felt as if I was still in Ava’s world, and on the journey home I thought about Ava — I thought about what qualifies a creature as a human. What’s Ava doing? What’s Caleb doing? Does he feel the same way that I feel right now? Why was Nathan such a megalomaniac? With very little effort, the film was able to connect me almost immediately to these three central characters despite the fact that none of them are exactly likable.
The most admirable thing about the film is that although the central female character is technically dependent on the two men in the film, she does not embody the trope of a helpless damsel. Nor was she solely the catalyst for the male plot lines. Ava is, in fact, the most memorable and dynamic character in the film, which causes a lot of conflict in my brain because she wasn’t even human. Caleb and Nathan are just one dimensional nerds with intimacy issues. Ava is so much bigger than that; so much bigger than her creator.
Ex Machina is an artistic look at how deep the bonds between human beings and technology have come over the years. It’s also a tool for one to really sit back and consider where we are going as a civilized society and if privacy is still something that exists. Most importantly, it’s a form of thoughtful entertainment. And after a season of movies that actually deplete brain cells, it is a relief to come across something that awakens the imagination.