What does it mean to be alive? That’s the question that “Ex Machina” contemplates as it focuses on its three characters: Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a multi-billionaire attempting to create genuine artificial intelligence, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a young, idealistic computer programmer hired to determine if the A.I. is genuine, and Ava (Alicia Vikander), the intelligence herself.
It’s a gripping psychological drama focused on consciousness itself; is what we feel and experience really that different from something that we can program into a computer? After all, we are full of flaws. We are capable of cruelty, irrationality and deceitfulness. Are we really that much more capable of handling our emotions than a programmed intelligence? How different are we, and where does that difference start?
Secluded in a certifiable fortress in the woods, the two men begin the project of determining how cognizant Ava is of her life. As Caleb begins his task by interacting with her, asking her questions, she questions him in return, flirts with him, and he starts to fall in love with her. This clouds his judgment until he begins to question everything happening around him; his world, his own sense of mind and especially Caleb and his motives. When such emotions take hold of us and make us do strange, sometimes even horrible things, who are we to determine the validity of conscious intelligence?
Shot in a very serence, still style with a color palette of monotones to evoke a mysterious sense, director and writer Alex Garland keeps the twists and turns coming in a very emotionally satisfying story that offers no real answers but poses fascinating questions.