"A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I."
If you are looking for a really talky but R-rated version of Steven Spielberg's "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" (2001), or just want to see Kike Maíllo's far superior "Eva" (2011) rehashed with a couple of different twists, "Ex Machina" is for you.
It's not that "Ex Machina" is a bad movie per se, since the camerawork is great, the sets and effects are perfect, and the acting is totally convincing. It's just that there isn't really a lot to this extremely slow-moving sci-fi, and there isn't enough of anything apart from some brief nudity and a nifty disco-dancing routine to make it memorable. It's definitely more of a drama than anything else, and like "Maggie", it makes you wonder if the story and its tropes couldn't have been played out on a purely human level without any gimmicks.
Why make the robot a beautiful girl? Why make her sexual? All that is explained in the dialogue at some length, and it's important to the plot, but I'm sure that the fauxminists will still bitch and whine about this aspect to get pageviews. Good luck to them. Nobody cares. It's only another movie with no deep and meaningful political agenda unless someone wants to make more out of it than they should. And sadly, with over 300 external reviews of "Ex Machina" currently posted on the IMDb, I know that at least one person already has done. Pathetic.
Obviously, Alicia Vikander almost steals the show as the beautiful robot Ava, but it's fair to say that Domhnall Gleeson (as Caleb) and Oscar Isaac (as Nathan) hold up well against her. In fact, the double-twist makes the whole ménage à trois (albeit with some minor characters) worthwhile. It's very predictable in the the way that you kind of expect what happens to happen but not in the way it does, and most people probably won't see the ending coming. In that respect, the story is very well played indeed.
Directed and written by Alex Garland (of "28 Days Later" and "Dredd" fame), what "Ex Machina" lacks in originality, it makes up for in uncluttered calmness and downplayed spectacle. There's even a bit of sexual tension here and there but not too much. Kids could watch this. They won't understand most of it, of course, but an R-rating seems unnecessarily harsh. Oh wait, it's America, so healthy nudity is the most heinous evil ever and violent death is perfectly acceptable. I get it now.
In short, "Ex Machina" is another robot with artificial intelligence movie but is none the worse for that. The better robot movie is still "Eva", and "Bicentennial Man" (1999) is arguably the emotional best, but "Ex Machina" is a competent addition to the sci-fi genre.
Recommended for a rainy Sci-Fi Saturday night.