Ex Machina

Film, Science fiction
3 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(9user reviews)
Ex Machina

Stephen Hawking has warned us that the growing power of artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. Technology has not yet reached the point where a robot has passed the Turing test—fooling people into believing they’re talking to a human. But screenwriter and novelist Alex Garland’s debut feature takes us to the very moment of that technological birth. What might it look like when we get there?

Pretty damn slinky, as it happens. Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is an ace computer programmer who wins a competition to visit the remote home of his Silicon Valley company’s charismatic billionaire founder (Oscar Isaac). Caleb’s task is to test his boss’s new invention: Ava, a robot whose glowing LEDs and whirring servos combine with a lithe feminine form and the angelic features of actor Alicia Vikander. Caleb isn’t just convinced, he’s smitten, but the more he learns about the relationship between Ava and her volatile, hard-drinking creator, the more concerned he becomes for her future.

There are elements of romance and dystopian thriller here, though Garland’s art-house pacing keeps us waiting for these threads to emerge, lining up thoughtful dialogue exchanges between man and machine. Vikander’s spellbinding, not-quite-human presence (her synthetic skin is silky yet creepy) keeps us watching. But an obvious twist and some clunky developments—how about those sudden power cuts?—drain much of the credibility from a story that promised so much. A bit more intelligence wouldn’t have gone amiss.


Release details

Release date:
Friday January 23 2015
108 mins

Cast and crew

Alex Garland
Alex Garland
Domhnall Gleeson
Oscar Isaac
Alicia Vikander

Average User Rating

3.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
  • 4 star:6
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:2
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So, in all honesty I watched about 60% of this movie until I decided I had had enough. I am sure some will say I'm being over-sensitive or I should've kept watching until the end, but this movie made me incredibly uncomfortable. 

The movie started off well-enough, slow and intriguing, building the story and characters with trepidation. Like classic thriller, you know something is going to go horribly, horribly wrong. The anxiety is palpable. That was expected. 

What was not expected was the sexualisation. 

From the moment we're introduced to Ava, I was wondering - why has she got such large breasts? I understand humans making "human like" robots, but she has been designed as clearly not to be human - her whirring machinery is visible amid silvery mesh skin. And then, why does a female robot need to have breasts? They exist for biological reasons, so it felt odd. My question was actually answered in the film, so I'll give the screenwriter that. 

But then it became apparent that the answer we were given in the film, that "to create a humanity-like machine cannot exist with sexuality" whatever it was, clearly wasn't the reason she had been designed this way. Oh no. The drunken creator of the AI robots has just been making machines conscious and having his way with them. We're not suppose to be upset about the images of naked women being trapped in his home because - they're not real women, right? They're robots!

Not impressed, not pleased. Disgusted and uncomfortable. 

Staff Writer

I caught up with this movie on a plane, a captive audience. Although lacking a little on the storyline, the film is strangely addictive, captivated by Ava the robot with advanced A.I., you are drawn in and trapped in a surreal world where things may not be as they appear at first glance. Slightly disturbing, tastefully presented with very good performances from the actors. I'd watch it again, just in case I missed something.

Like almost everything Alex Garland is involved in, this is brainless, derivative junk masquerading as smart cinema. The time is right for a brave and groundbreaking take on AI, but this film takes the easy route at every conceivable opportunity. This is a textbook example of a dumb movie that's just smart enough to make stupid people think it's really clever. Avoid.

Interesting: I half-expected accusations of misogyny from Time Out and three stars from them is a good result (and well-deserved).

Intelligent, enjoyable, well acted, well shot and well paced - solid 4 stars

It's a pretty good movie. But I am writing to say how annoyed I become at critics that toss off remarks like 'obvious twist'. Trust me, I've seen a great many movies and literally thousands of twists. Part of the denouement of this movie was indeed obvious - but one of its strengths was that the overall resolution of the story was anything but obvious, and, indeed, imposible to predict.

Intelligent science fiction drama set in a beautiful location. Three and a half stars.


A title that nearly put me off and I went with low expectations, yet surprised at how much I enjoyed the film and a storyline that nods to this year's Lucy. Loved the soundtrack and basic premise of the film that takes place in a claustrophobic designer bunker. I was surprised TO talks up American Sniper and this down, so make your own mind up. The film should have been called "Deus Ex Machina" which would have been a better clue to the storyline and less cryptic. One to see if you can, it's rather good.