People-Watching

Did any of y’all see this movie? It wasn’t well advertised. Brought to you by the nominations at SXSW 2015:

ex machina
ex machina

I have to say this is one of the most bizarre thrillers that I actually enjoyed. Written and directed by Alex Garland, a London filmmaker.

A young programmer (Caleb) wins a mysterious contest, which buys him a trip to the massive estate of the CEO of the company he works for. Turns out Nathan, the CEO, has secret projects of his own, as he unveils artificial intelligence at its finest. Ava, his current prototype, is an ingenious, amazing robot, whose self-aware intelligence is beyond doubt. During the week that Caleb is supposed to be testing her AI, Ava manipulates and surpasses even the human intelligence that she is confronted with.

“If you’ve created…artificial intelligence it’s not the history of man. It’s the history of gods.” ~Caleb.

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There’s so much foreshadowing in this movie! And you don’t realize it until the end. The plot twist is so sudden and unreal that you just have to sit there for a couple minutes during the credits and comprehend what you just saw.

I won’t ruin the movie but I will point out several things that I thought was interesting. Ava is an AI prototype. We don’t ever know what AVA stands for. Session One: When Caleb asks how old she is, she says “I am one.” Caleb asks when she learned to speak. “I always knew how to speak,” she replies. We never see Ava sleep in the movie. We do see her draw during the night, look intently at the security cameras–all thoughtful activities.

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The movie isn’t about Caleb winning this trip and meeting with an incredible AI robot. The movie is about the evolution of this AI robot. During the first session, we see that she is ominous and quite self aware, then Second Session: she starts asking Caleb questions. The first emotional expression we see on Ava’s face is after Caleb says his parents are dead. She begins to empathize, sympathize, or is it all an act?

Session Three: Ava shares rumors about Nathan (the CEO) and how terrible he is to her. She needs to escape or she might be shut down and her memory deleted. Appealing to Caleb’s emotion now…

Throughout the sessions we see her become more and more…advanced. Not technology-wise, but in human emotion, interaction, and manipulation. She dresses up, puts a wig on, and timidly asks how she looks. Oh how well she already knows young men!

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Caleb asks Ava if she could go out of her room, where would she go? She answers that she would like to go on a date with Caleb to a traffic intersection. To people watch.

What has she been doing in the movie so far? People-watching. It’s how someone like her evolves. The movie revolves around people-watching.

When I noticed this I was quite proud of myself. That’s exactly how Ava escapes her prison: by people-watching and observing what they care about and what they want most. Manipulating Caleb, succumbing to Nathan and his “cruel” dictatorship over her: its all just simple people-watching. She’s more modest than Nathan’s other prototypes, she has a sweeter face, and she has a cunning mind. Recipe for manipulation.

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Go see this movie. Bootleg it. Rent it. Its a thriller you don’t want to miss. Flawless foreshadowing. Perfect plot twists. Of course the movie had its plot holes, but many indie film festival winners do. This is one where the plot holes didn’t get in the way of the fascinating concepts.

Ex Machina does not disappoint.

Blown away,

J.L. Cordova

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