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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Review: Androids become more human in ‘Ex Machina’

    Programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a lottery at work, and a helicopter whisks him away to an isolated compound in the mountains. Here, Caleb will spend a week with Nathan (Oscar Isaac), genius owner and founder of Bluebook, the Google-esque fictional search engine company that Caleb works for in the movie “Ex Machina.”

    Nathan’s chic subterranean abode has the classy, modern aesthetic of a billionaire with taste. The lighting casts everything in a soft glow, making the complex seem less sterile. Streaming in through windows on the floors aboveground, blue sunlight washes out the frame. Initially, it all makes for a comfy cloister.

    Though a prodigy programmer that wrote the code for the world’s premier search engine at 13, Nathan is certainly far from being Zuckerbergian in matters of social aptitude.

    Caleb, with the viewer, is introduced to Nathan as he lifts weights, displaying biceps and a physique that are fairly far from that of the stereotypical scrawny or overweight computer nerd.

    He also drinks straight from the bottle like a frat guy and is combatting a hangover when Caleb arrives. When Caleb asks him how the party was, Nathan shoots him a confused look. There was no party — Nathan drinks alone, and he drinks heavily.

    This disarming “one of the guys” act is wrapped together and made complete by Isaac’s idiosyncratic performance. At one point, he breaks out into a dance routine.

    While Nathan would be content to drink brewskis and shoot pool for the next seven days, he’s brought Nathan out for a very specific task: to test the authenticity of the artificial intelligence of the android he’s created. Could she pose as human?

    Ava (Alicia Vikander) has human feet and hands, and a beautiful human face. The rest of her is robotic, with her electrical inner workings exposed.

    It’s paramount to the film that Vikander is able to make us believe in Ava being human, as she does exactly that. Vikander’s character is convincing, yet there’s still the slightest touch of the uncanny.

    Caleb and Ava get to know each other through a series of talks held between heavy pieces of glass.

    These conversations initially begin one-sided, with Caleb posing questions to Ava. However, a la Dr. Hannibal Lecter being probed by Clarice Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs,” the captive on the other side of the glass won’t give themselves up so easily without receiving another piece of the person in return.

    These quid pro quo sessions see the balance in power shift. Ava begins asking more of Caleb, and suddenly, he finds he is under the microscope.

    At the peak of her inquiries, Ava is framed domineeringly; the camera is on her side of the glass, looking up at her as she looks down upon her subject. Caleb sits, small by comparison.

    The conversations become more intimate, and Caleb, a little unbelievably, quickly falls for Ava. Though there’ll be more insight into Caleb’s character — like the fact he’s single — that suggest he would easily fall for a pretty face, the development feels too accelerated.

    Sporadic power outages become more common as he becomes more and more uncomfortable, and they’re accompanied by a klaxon and a blood-red light.

    Combine that with Ava telling Caleb that Nathan shouldn’t be trusted, and the weekend getaway in the state-of-the-art science facility becomes more of a red-tinged descent into paranoia.

    As you might guess, there are twists and revelations until the end, and they’re kind of underwhelming. Maybe that’s just what happens when you let your imagination run wild, guessing at the different possibilities and far-fetched outcomes.

    However, this does not detract too much from “Ex Machina,” which shows us that at their most advanced stage, androids will be human after all, complete with our redeemable and irredeemable qualities.

    Grade: A-

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    Follow Alex Guyton on Twitter.

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