Friday, May 15, 2015

Ex Machina

Geek Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) gets the chance of a lifetime as he wins the company raffle, but instead of cash or a trip to some beach paradise, the grand prize involves a one-on-one meet and greet event with eccentric but very talented company CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) at his secluded residence cum research facility. He gets more than what he bargained for, though, when Nathan reveals to him that he is about to take part in a Turing Test for his latest artificial intelligence project. A dream come true for any gifted programmer like him, Caleb is tasked to test Ava (Alicia Vikander), a humanoid robot, whose reactions and advanced intellect could be mistaken for that of a human being. Things get quite weird when she begins to intentionally trigger facility-wide power cuts and admit to him that she does not trust Nathan, convincing him that they should both escape. Is Caleb really testing Ava? Is Ava the one testing Caleb? Or is Nathan just testing them both?

Movies like this really convince your brain to work and figure out which is which. This is hard to do at first, but the reward of eventual cerebral titillation is really worth it so you enjoy the experience after all. The film is peppered with random chatter among the three lead characters, most of which cover various areas of philosophy from existentialism to metaphysics. Before you get turned off by that, though, be glad to know that the plot does not escalate to Inception proportions. Ain’t nobody got time for that level of mindfuck nowadays. This film brings it down a notch so you could think and enjoy at the same time, giving you a more balanced viewing experience.

Still, not everyone would appreciate the way the plot of this film unfolds. There is definitely more talk than action, and the adrenaline rush is mainly derived from sudden realizations triggered by random revelations, most of which come from Ava herself. These revelations come in the form of spoken words, not explosions a la any of Michael Bay’s movies. This means that you really have to pay attention to the ongoing dialogue among the characters. Otherwise, you would be missing a lot if you decide to focus more on your popcorn instead.

In terms of acting, the two guys are convincing enough, but they are not really required to give you an Oscar-winning performance. Perhaps the real revelation here is Vikander herself, playing the role of a robot who thinks she is human, or better yet, that she SHOULD be human. How do you even begin to prepare when you bag a role like this? But yeah, she is awesome. She plays the part well by making sure you know that she is AI, but also exuding enough femininity and sexuality up to a point where you might also be having second thoughts as to the true nature of the character.

The open ending leaves room for excitement because of the what-if scenario that it presents. The director is successful in selling you the idea that such scenario is possible, and so you end up thinking hard about various hypothetical stuff that really have no bearing on your daily life, but you would be thinking about it until you get home and call it a day anyway. Don’t you just love it when a movie does that to you?

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