Ex Machina is truly a science fiction classic

Ex Machina is one of the best science fiction movies in the past decade

By Chinmay Kulkarni

There are few movies that excellently illustrate how a human-looking artificial intelligence would look as well as Ex Machina. The 2015 thriller was one that lived up to the modest hype, quickly becoming a box office gem full of interesting shots, great acting, and a plot that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats while not accomplishing anything too crazy throughout the entirety of its runtime.

The plot of Ex Machina runs as to how I envision a real-life CAPTCHA test would happen. We follow Caleb, a programmer at a tech company, winning a raffle to spend time at CEO Nathan’s mountain house. As we learn immediately as we arrive at the house, the location is not just a retreat, but a lab in which Nathan has secretly been testing humanoid artificial intelligence. Caleb is tasked with testing the newest AI, Ava, in a series of tests to measure her growth and comparison to a full human. As is the case with this robot, dystopian movie, there’s a plot to free Ava from Nathan’s lab towards the end of the movie. In the end, Nathan is stabbed by Ava, and Caleb is left locked in Nathan’s house as Ava escapes and joins the real world for the first time.

It goes beyond the question that locations for the movie are top-notch. In this growing thriller genre, normally it takes quick cuts or traveling between locations to create tension in the movie. However, all the settings in Ex Machina are quite tame. There is a peaceful, order to the rooms, labs, and living quarters, but the sense of emptiness and particular color usage throughout the movie heightens the impending doom that the viewer knows is guaranteed.

In such cerebral movies, it’s obvious that the directors and producers want to study humanity in relation to AI. This was by far the most compelling part of the story. Caleb is thrown into this experiment to test Ava, not just as a test of the AI comprehensiveness, but as a measure for Caleb on how humans would react instead. Likewise, the conversations start very clumsily between Caleb and Ava, but their sure chemistry in the movie is one that shows that humans and AI can indeed work together.

The biggest question that I believe the movie leaves out is this – ‘Does Ava seduce Caleb into freeing her? Likewise, it can also be asked whether Ava really ever cared about Caleb at all, while trying to feign affection by talking about their future and going on a date. I believe this was all for naught. Ava simply wanted release from Nathan’s lab, and eventually used Caleb. Caleb for one seems like one who is not as mentally strong as you might think, spurring Nathan to essentially handpick him for the experiment as a weak guinea pig.

Overall, this is a gem of a movie that serves the growing thriller genre perfectly. As a cerebral movie that compares humanity versus artificial intelligence, it’s an excellently directed film with character chemistry and a methodical plot that maintains a place to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

Overall Grade – A-

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