Culture, Movies

‘Ex Machina’ tackles questions of sexuality, sentient machines

Sci-fi thriller “Ex Machina asks incisive questions without relying on flashy action. With only three speaking roles, the script uses implied dialogue to escalate suspense. While the characters rarely say what they mean, every word in the film has a purpose.

Eternally with vodka or wheatgrass in hand, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a straight-talking genius millionaire, drunkenly admires his art piece, a graffiti-looking masterpiece by painter Jackson Pollock. The challenge of the painter, he says, was to not be intimidated by the repercussions of his actions while also allowing his subconscious to control his movements. Quiet intellectual coder, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) who won a stay at Nathan’s eclectic wilderness house, agrees as usual, but this time it goes beyond the polite behavior of a guest.

Their discussion cheekily applies a double meaning to the film itself. Even small, humanizing characterizations, like Nathan’s party-animal tendencies and Caleb’s orphanhood, resurface to play pivotal roles in the plot itself.

The simple plot is divided neatly by title-frames that number the scenes into encounters, with each consisting of Caleb’s witty interactions with the lifelike robot, Ava (Alicia Vikander). The chapter-like divisions hint at the writer-director’s background as a novelist.

As both the writer and director, Alex Garland rightly calls his film an “ideas movie”– ideas which he modestly says he “encountered through reading or sort of studying in one way or another.”

His script deftly builds conversations with the non-human, which peeks at precisely what it means to be human. While the plot itself is uncomplicated, its inferences and interpretability are profound. The film surprises with unexpected, bubbling twists that mock the plot’s simplicity.

It explores timeless themes like the blind trust of fake love and employee-employer pressure. It questions the treatment of automated life forms as disposable and parodies the lone-partier attitude and self-absorption of the Silicon Valley elite.

To both alleviate and intensify the difficulty of these questions, the film triggers uncomfortable laughs in strategically wrong places. Menacing actions are accompanied by childlike smiles; sadistic glares are contrasted by relaxing words.

Though unsubtle in its commentaries, “Ex Machina glows in its believable questioning on the future of automated intelligence. Unconfined by the limited set space within Nathan’s eclectic, streamlined laboratory home, it tackles hard questions like the morality, sexuality and self-awareness of sentient machines.

April 30, 2015

Reporters

Luisa Andonie


Around the Web

During a virtual panel discussion hosted by the University of Washington, President Julio Frenk discussed global responses to the pandemic—and what is needed to move forward. ...

Members of the Homecoming Executive Committee share how they pivoted this year to plan a ’Canes Spirit Week that continues to generate excitement and honor tradition. ...

One of the University’s largest student-run organizations didn’t miss a beat when moving its dance lessons online. ...

Tau Sigma National Honor Society and the Department of Orientation and Commuter Student Involvement host a week of interactive events honoring transfer students Oct. 19-25. ...

A graduate of the highly selective Applied Behavior Analysis program, Fajer Almenaie is changing the landscape for children on the autism spectrum in the Middle East. ...

TMH Twitter
About Us

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published in print every Tuesday.