At 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.