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What's Really Going On in Alex Garland's 'Ex Machina'?

By Cindy Davis | Trailers | March 18, 2015 |

By Cindy Davis | Trailers | March 18, 2015 |

Self-aware artificial intelligence capable of emotion; that’s the introductory promise Ex Machina’s mysterious CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac) makes to employee/coder Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), who’s won the chance to visit the bossman’s research retreat. If you’ve seen the first trailer, you know there’s an intentional unease. A hint of menace — though from which direction it comes is unclear — bubbles beneath the surface, and its clear we’re meant to wonder whether it’s Nathan, or his creation Ava (Alicia Vikander), we should mistrust. Being the naturally suspicious human I am, my first thought was that Ava isn’t the only A.I., and after watching this second trailer, I’m convinced I know what’s going on. Watch it first, then we’ll discuss…

One of the clues here came from Ava herself (“Today, I’m going to test you.”), which means we should probably disregard it, but I can’t let go the feeling she’s right. Because nothing in A.I. movies is ever what it seems, and the way Nathan interacts with Caleb is another big hint — clearly (my deduction, not a spoiler), Caleb really is the one being observed (he’s also A.I.). At the 2:11 mark, Caleb asks, “Who is the real test?” Nathan answers, “You.”

Of course, it could be the entire compound, including Nathan, is run by robots — self-aware and self-creating — that’d be damned cool, too. Whatever the hell is going on, of all the films I’ve been anticipating this year, Ex Machina tops my list. Early reviews are great, but I’m not reading a one of them until after I watch.

Can robots even drink beer?


Garland (Never Let Me Go, Sunshine, 28 Days Later) also wrote the original script; this is his feature directorial debut, and Ex Machina hits theaters April 10th.

Cindy Davis, (Twitter) is not a bot…she thinks.

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