Ex Machina

Ex MachinaAt my wife’s encouragement, I went in on Amazon Prime a few weeks ago. I found this movie I had heard good things about. It’s a moody, intelligent, surprising film that demonstrates very smart people (and a robot) doing very cruel and not thought-out things.

A very minimal cast is placed in a hideaway beyond a Norwegian glacier, and the test is on: does the beautiful “machina” have authentic self-awareness? Nathan, the reclusive misanthropic boss, plucks young Caleb from his programming cubicle to test Ava. The first question I have, shared by Caleb, is how can he deliver the Turing Test if he already knows Ava is a machine.

In an era of in-your-face special effects, the only one in the film involves hundreds of screen shots of a feminine robot who has a human face and hands, but otherwise her inner workings are ever-present to the viewer. Except when she dresses up.

The acting is fine. The script is tight. The plot is best of all–maybe the best arc for a film I can recall. Some things are wholly predictable, like that servant who never speaks a word. Some elements in the final third of the film are surprising, if not shocking.

There is a level of brutality and cruelty in Nathan. Not just his bluster and arrogance, but also plots within plots. The viewer gets the notion that just when you think he’s been circumvented or fooled, he turns the tables and his hand is (literally) at someone’s throat.

A science fiction specialty, the damsel in distress, is cunningly turned on its head in this film–and that’s all the spoiler you get from me.

Some robots are shown as naked females, and that’s less about sex than a disturbing sense of combined vulnerability and power. The language can get rough at times. And there’s no discussion whatsoever about God or faith–the things that elevate humanity above our animal roots. A sensitive person might be upset by this film. But if you have the stomach for it, I think it’s very good viewing.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Ex Machina

  1. Jim McCrea says:

    Have you ever wondered about your affinity to both Science Fiction AND Liturgy?

    I love SF but can’t get worked up about the arcane bits of the liturgy wars.

  2. Todd says:

    I don’t meet too many liturgy people who like sf or fantasy. My wife prefers mysteries. By far.

  3. Atheist Max says:

    Good review of a great, provocative film. I loved the movie.

    But Todd said…
    “And there’s no discussion whatsoever about God or faith–the things that elevate humanity above our animal roots.”

    First, our animal roots absolutely deserve MUCH more respect.
    It is why we are alive – it is the astonishing accomplishment of our biology. Millions of generations before us fought off viruses, bacterias, earthquakes, volcanoes, droughts and untold numbers of predators – and the scars of those battles live on in each one of us in our DNA to protect future generations.

    Anti-bodies evolved to protect you – as did compassion and empathy. These are victories of evolution! Victories of our animal roots. We owe everything we are to these forces.

    Second, God and faith diminish and demean humanity claiming we are nothing but robot pawns whose fate and destiny are pre-ordained at birth by a tinkering mysterious wizard who has only his vain conquests in mind (and He says so!).

    This film elevates humanity by allowing us to witness exactly what we would be like WITHOUT OUR ANIMAL ROOTS: the robot girl is an unthinking machine incapable of compassion.
    The villains are the creator and its cold machine – full of narrow determination but lacking empathy.
    It almost sounds like religion.

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