In the cerebral sci-fi thriller Ex Machina, Domhnall Gleeson portrays Caleb, a computer coder for a Google-like tech firm enlisted by his Steve Jobs-esque employer (Oscar Isaac) to undertake a make-or-break experiment. Namely, the wonkish Caleb must conduct a Turing test on Ava (Alicia Vikander), a gorgeous robot with a platinum-encased computer brain and an exposed panel of illuminated circuitry in her belly, to ascertain if this extraordinary machine can pass for human. Along the way, emotional boundaries between man and android are erased—is Ava flirting with him?—forcing certain discomfiting realizations about Caleb’s humanity as well as where his allegiances lie.
The directorial debut of Alex Garland, the novelist-screenwriter-producer behind such futuristic dystopian films as 28 Days Later and Never Let Me Go, Ex Machina ponders humankind’s uneasy relationship with artificial intelligence in an era when no less a scientific eminence than Stephen Hawking has proclaimed that the development of AI “could spell the end of the human race.”
“There’s no ambiguity about whether she’s a machine or not,” Garland says. The challenge was to make audiences gradually forget about her mechanics and see her humanity. “Even though they’ve got visual evidence that contradicts it, increasingly what they feel they’re seeing is a girl.” That ambition drove the filmmakers to construct a character who was convincing as both. Here’s how they did it.
At the beginning of the trailer for Ex Machina, Oscar Isaac’s Nathan tells Domhnall Gleeson’s Caleb: “I’m just going to throw this out there so it’s said: You’re freaked out. You’re freaked out to be meeting me, and having this conversation in this room at this moment.”
Well, we certainly are as the trailer continues, and Caleb interacts with a beautiful robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander), who tells Caleb not to trust what Nathan says.
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