What is it about men falling in love with female-identified bits of cable and fiber optics? I have quite a few theories about why man and machine seem to be a star-crossed match made in a fictitious heaven, many of them revolving around passive misogyny and the great deal of unreciprocated emotional labour that such an apparatus is capable of (see: Her), but I won’t bore you. I will say, however, that EX_MACHINA is not your typical boy-meets-robot flick. And the small but major changes that this movie makes to an increasingly used and highly-successful plot device are quite rewarding, to say the very least.
The story begin simply enough: multi-billionaire Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), a general genius and a tech genius to boot, chooses one of the best coders in his company, Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) to win a one-week stay at his luxurious, secluded and vast estate. During this week, under Nathan’s tutelage, Caleb will have an opportunity to see the projects that Nathan is currently working on, and ask the brilliant recluse any questions. Sounds great, right? Well, it would have been, if Nathan’s latest project didn’t involve artificial intelligence (AI).
Nathan already had a seemingly mute AI, Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno), who functions as both servant and concubine, but has built another, Ava (Alicia Vikander). Nathan wants Caleb’s help in finding out if Ava is capable of genuine thought and consciousness, and if she is relatable to him despite being an AI. Instantly, Caleb is smitten with Ava, who (thanks to Nathan’s aforementioned genius), isn’t stiff or brittle-looking, but moves with grace and speaks with fluidity. Nathan arranges sessions for Caleb and Ava to speak privately. In between these sessions, he explains his work to Caleb, and the two have incredibly thought-provoking discussions on social evolution, nature vs. nurture, and human sexuality.
It must be said that Nathan is peak douchebag, but the man knows a lot about science. A lot more, it seems, than ginger virgin Caleb, whose recent fixation with a robot romance begins to completely cloud his common sense. Nathan’s project is a success, but what does that mean when he and his creation do not trust one another, and he’s invited into his home a variable which he cannot control with a keystroke?
EX_MACHINA is so many things: A vivid display of the consequences of violent misogyny, a cautionary tale to the need to control that even self-proclaimed Nice Guys™ have (to their own detriment), and how advanced evolution increases the need to self-preserve, by any means necessary. Most of all, EX_MACHINA is a story that reminds us to contemplate who is truly worthy of our trust, and if that trust is coming from a place of logic and reason, or selfish, personal agendas.
I give this one 5 stars.