Directed by Alex Garland
Cornerhouse, 24 January 2015
This brilliant film is at once an elegant riff on Turing’s notion of the imitation game and an incisive exploration of contemporary transhumanist pretensions.
Nathan (Oscar Isaac) is an internet entrepreneur, inventor of Bluebook, the web’s foremost search engine. He contrives to get Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) to a mountain retreat where he is building an AI, or rather a form of artificial life (AL). It is a young woman in appearance (the beautiful Alicia Vikander), as were all Nathan’s previous prototypes. (If you were Frankenstein, why wouldn’t you build a beautiful woman?) Caleb’s role, apparently, is to see whether she can pass for human, come through the Turing test.
It is an absorbing film and an haunting one too, as much for what it says about how men manipulate women as for its take on man and machine. The end is chilling, so much so in fact that you could almost see it as a prequel to that little known and underrated Hammer horror film, Scream and Scream Again (1970).
Ex Machina is an impressive achievement by Alex Garland, who wrote as well as directed it: science fiction doesn’t get better than this.