At The Movies: Ex Machina

If you can’t wait another week to see if an artificial intelligence can outwit humans, then check out the new British sci-fi thriller”Ex Machina.” It’s not as bombastic and explosive as “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is expected to be — it’s a creepier and more cerebral story.

Domhnall Gleeson stars as Caleb Smith, a geeky computer programmer who has won a one-week visit at the secluded compound of his employer — the reclusive and alcoholic genius inventor Nathan Bateman (Oscar Issac).

MV5BMTUxNzc0OTIxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDI3NzU2NDE@._V1_SX214_AL_It turns out Caleb hasn’t been invited to Nathan’s cabin in the mountains for a week of drinking and partying. Nathan has built an artificial intelligence in female form named Ava (Alicia Vikander) and he wants Caleb to take part in a series of tests to determine if she is self-aware.

The sessions begin and things get complicated as the week progresses. During one of the compound’s many mysterious power outages, Ava tells Caleb that Nathan is not to be trusted. Caleb begins to care for Ava and worries what would happen if Nathan decides to erase her and start over with a new version.

Written and directed by Alex Garland, “Ex Machina” is the kind of thoughtful science fiction that you don’t see much in the age of “Transformers.” The film spends a good deal of time with Caleb and Nathan talking about ideas and philosophy as the story moves forward. It’s a slow, sometimes ponderous, movie but when the secrets are revealed things become tense and compelling quickly.

“Ex Machina” is stylishly filmed and there is a lot of lovely imagery, from the scenes of nature surrounding the compound to Ava’s intriguing robotic design. While the story is intriguing it is helped along by a trio of strong performances. Isaac in particular stands out for his portrayal of the boozy, manipulative, eccentric inventor.

 

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