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film review: ex machina

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Will a self-conscious AI ever exist? Will we one day be surpassed by machines that are much smarter than us, machines that we made ourselves, machines that look in a mirror and recognise who they are? These are the never-ending questions that sci-fi keeps trying to answer, with novel adaptations like Blade Runner and I, Robot, or the Spielberg classic A.I. Ex Machina, directed by Alex Garland and starring Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, and Oscar Issac, is the latest sci-fi flick to tackle these big questions and it does so with no holds barred.

Even though I’m a die hard sci-fi fan, I know that there are way too many films and books out there that ask these questions in the same exact way. Sometimes I get a bit sick and tired of this theme because let’s face it, there’s only so much we can speculate on this topic before it becomes tiresome. But with Ex Machina, a fresh new look has been added to the mix.

The film boasts stunning visuals and stellar acting, and although the dialogue is sometimes lacklustre, we are moved quickly into the world of ‘Bluebook’ founder Nathan, played by Issac,. Reminiscent of Facebook and Google, Bluebook is the world’s most popular search engine. Nathan has created an AI in the form of humanoid robot Ava, (Vikander). One of Bluebook’s programmers, Caleb (Gleeson), is randomly picked to visit Nathan’s isolated mansion for one week. Caleb is instantly told upon arrival that he’s here to experiment on Ava, to see whether she is conscious or not. To see whether she is ‘alive.’

What unfolds in Ex Machina, however, is not your usual is-a-robot-conscious-or-not kind of movie. It becomes evident that  Nathan has an abusive relationship with Ava. She wants to be free, and enlists Caleb to help her. We see here, up close and personal, the theme of man as the cause of pain and suffering for the ‘other.’ An overused theme in sci-fi, yes, but one that is continuously all too relevant. What happens next is too terrifying to explain, so you’ll just have to see the film for yourself.

Ex Machina is a beautiful and haunting film, but the message it conveys is what makes me fall in love with sci-fi day in and day out. It takes everything that we thought we knew about humanity and puts a huge microscope up to it and asks, is this really okay? I’d recommend seeing the film if you’re a feminist, a nerd, a lover, a scientist, or just a person. Why? Because it will make you think about what it really means to be human, about what is really alive, and about what respect for others really is. No matter if they’re human, or robot, or female, or animal; you will realise they are all the same.

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