Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

An All-Too Human Creation

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

An All-Too Human Creation

Article excerpt

Moody and evocative, "Ex Machina" is a well-made science fiction thriller that I quite admired even as I realized it didn't reach its full potential. It starts out with a very novel concept and moves forward with it in such a direct way that it held very few surprises.

It seems like a smart movie that outsmarted itself.

The idea is the creation of the first real artificial intelligence by mankind, manifested in a robot named Ava. She has been built as an expressly female entity with all the imperatives of attraction that entails. So a man - technically brilliant but socially awkward - interacts with her and begins to develop feelings.

This premise is not entirely original; other movies like "S1m0ne" and "Her" have explored the idea of a guy falling for a virtual construct, with varying degrees of success. Writer Alex Garland ("Never Let Me Go"), who also makes his directing debut, cleverly adds the idea of the third wheel: the man who created the robot, has hired the other man to test it, and watches the two of them interact with some apparent mix of scientific inquiry and malevolence.

The result is a weird, disquieting love (?) triangle in which three beings, one of them mechanical, wage a struggle of wills.

Oscar Isaac plays Nathan, a genius programmer who created Bluebook, the world's dominant search engine, while still a teenager. (Think Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, combined.) Now he lives in a research facility in the middle of a vast mountainous estate, where the only way in is a two-hour helicopter ride. Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a meek young coder in his employ, wins a contest for a special week-long stay with a life-changing (but unspecified) opportunity.

The underground domicile, with weird amalgamations of modern and traditional appointments, is something between a retreat and a prison. Caleb can go some places but not others. …

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