A quirky, eccentric computer ace with a ton of money from a Google-like background builds a super computer research lab out in the middle of the wilderness. He invited another computer whiz he’s thoroughly vetted into this facility to interact with an android he has constructed. The undertaking is to cozy up to the android to determine if her cerebral functions are real or simulated. Shades of Blade Runner (1982).
The android, Ava, is a mixture of human and machine. She whirrs when she changes position, but moves fluidly. The investigator’s task is to expertly inquire into the nuts and bolts of Ava through a series of interviews. To discern whether she can truly feel and think autonomously or whether all her emotions and human interactions are fluent simulations. A high tech speed date.
Through the course of the interactions, some spooky questions emerge. The investigator comes to doubt his own humanity when faced with questions as to the very nature of humanity. Is it possible for humans to discern synthetic humanity? Is the inevitability of “true” artificial intelligence a self-fulfilling prophecy, and if so, can it eventually evolve to self-awareness? Must human emotion and codes of morality necessarily become integrated with self-awareness? Could humans become like the bones of dinosaurs in time.
The film’s ending hints that a “Replicant” (after Blade Runner) can be programmed to have virtually any functional or even emotional qualities. They are quite capable of extremely intricate and directed human function with total honesty, but not necessarily a morality oversight. Some of these interactions are performed with exquisitely functional verisimilitude, begging lots of questions as yet unanswered.
Classic Blade Runner (1982) hinted at a lot of these issues, especially the increasingly difficult task of discerning real from Memorex. There are continuing arguments to this day over whether Deckard was, himself, a Replicant and there was no way to prove it one way or the other. When Deckard and Rachel escape along the Pacific Coast Highway, it’s unclear how much time either of them have but it is clear they intend to make the most of it, as anyone else would.
A classic scene of a Replicant’s death:
Ex Machina glaringly brings these questions into very clear focus. This film stands and refuses to fall with Swedish actress Alicia Vikander as Ava. The screen shines when she appears and dims when she’s not. She seduces the viewer instantly.
This is an excellent film. Highly recommended by me. I’m giving it a 5 of 5 mechanized silhouettes.