Ben Oliver

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Ex Machina

Isn’t it strange, to create something that hates you?
14 August 2021

A computer programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a lottery at his company to go away on a retreat at his boss’ (Oscar Isaac) remote estate. When he arrives his boss reveals a new humanoid AI to him (Alicia Vikander).

What strikes me is how carefully and accurately Garland captures the 21st century style of thinking coming out of Silicon Valley. We should create a machine with its own morality and consciousness because someone else will otherwise! We should also then bend it to our will and use it to exploit people. And it has to want to be human. And of course we should drink expensive beer and work out while we do it.

It’s hard to fault such a cleanly made film with such a well executed idea. A lot of special effects work has gone into this, and even more work has gone into making it all disappear. On top of that, Garland dodges endless pointless action sequences that sometimes crop up whenever you get a robot that is very human-like.

Instead of a crazy sci-fi romp this is a slow to build but precisely formulated exploration of morality, technology, consciousness and even men’s attitudes to women. It’s perhaps more interested in the ‘how’ of robotics than Spike Jonze’s Her is, but its different angle on the idea is fascinating.