Ex Machina


A woman walks into view, calm, framed by a floor-to-ceiling pane of glass. She’s not quite a woman, though: her face is grafted onto a metal and plastic body, lights and circuitry visible where her abdomen should be. She glances at the man come to see her. He fixates on her. They talk. Attempt to figure one another out–he trying to determine if she has consciousness, she if he will be a friend. But what do they really think of each other? This is the question repeatedly posed in Ex Machina. The man, Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson), has been flown out to the mountain retreat of his company’s CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) to test his A.I., Ava (Alicia Vikander). Caleb is enchanted by Ava, designed specifically to be feminine, but this fact makes him suspicious of Nathan’s motives. Vague hints from Ava herself reinforce this. As in Gone Girl, audiences aren’t allowed one interpretation of each character. Perception is constantly shifting, signaled in Alex Garland’s direction by light and surface details. Naturalist lighting always accompanies frank, chummy discussions, Caleb having a drink with Nathan in his Falling Water-inspired home or talking about his childhood with Ava in her room/cell with a view. When in the box-shaped, cold white hallways and bedrooms of the bunker beneath Nathan’s home, his character turns more sinister, goading Caleb into an NDA with broad-reaching privacy implications. When the colors go garish, either during power outages or during a round of drunken cavorting, characters break even further: Ava reveals her suspicions about Nathan, he becomes ghoulish and crazed. Caleb ping pongs between these layers, his own motivations and sanity in doubt. His attempts to figure out man and machine are never complete, his own, limited perspective a blind spot.


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