Ex Machina (2015)
What happens to me if I fail your test?
Nine times out of ten, if someone tells me I should check out a movie, I get around to checking it out. Doesn't matter if I have no prior interest, knowledge, or obligations to watch it - it's just a matter of someone thought it was good, so it's probably worth seeing what I think of it. This has a perceived positive ratio of success, but admittedly if you count "meh" as a negative than it's probably just as often a fatal call on my end as it is positive - but I do it none-the-less. This rendition of the evils of artificial intelligence is brought to you buy that same morbid curiosity that drives me to watch anything someone says. The real question you should be asking is if the result is bowing down to our cyber-overlords or a robot that still can't seem to find it's balance.
Stuff! Really, that's how this movie starts, is with stuff. When we get to the point after a brief moment of said stuff, we see some random fella just won himself some sort of prize. As word gets around, everyone is quite excited about his success in prize-winning, and we are left to wonder just what exactly this guy has won. It doesn't help that we then see him flying over what looks like an iceberg but I throw out the assumption it's probably a snowy mountain of some sort, and as we transition to some greener pastures he lets slip that he's getting flown to the estate of someone - which he's actually apparently been over for the last two hours. The pilot apparently has a no-fly zone near the owner's actual house forever, and after landing kicks the winner out and tells him to "follow the river" until he gets to the house. Nothing like being set down in the middle of seemingly nowhere with no reception, a single bag and a direction like "follow the river" to make you really enjoy your prize winning, am I right?
Well, after finally getting to the house, a robotic voice comes from a nearby wall terminal and tells him to come over to it. As with any time you would get a picture taken for a license, our winner gets a surprised face-full of flash as the terminal takes his photo and issues him his access key. We are introduced now to the amazing interior of this secluded house as our winner tries to find the owner - which he does by following the sounds of someone beating up some punching bag. At last, we find out that this owner is actually the owner of the company the winner works for, and that coming up to see him at his top secret paradise spot was the reward. Specifically, after cutting to the point and some NDA signing, we find out the true purpose of the contest - allowing the winner to take part in a Turing Test against an amazing AI the savant-of-programming company owner has created. Day one leaves the winner pretty amazed at the accomplishments, although the owner comes off as quite a jerk.
As the time progresses as do the test sessions, we start seeing some underlying tensions - specifically between the owner and the winner, since the owners abrasiveness can lead to some awkwardness in the room. Top that off with the AI warning the winner about the owner being a liar, and our plot thickens. That alone would be enough, but then we have the classic "I think I'm falling in love with a robot" layer added in, and all sorts of things start coming into question. Is the AI playing them? Is the owner playing them? Is the winner secretly a robot himself and just doesn't know it yet? Who has to carry all the booze to this secluded place if the helicopter can't land close to the house?
There isn't really much that can be said of this plot. It might try and approach it in a different way than some other AI-based movies, but in the end it still ends up feeling like the same "AI will rule the world because it's smarter and better than us" cautionary tale as others out there. It does work with what it presents rather well, and if you manage to engross yourself in it you'll find yourself mulling over a lot more questions on a philosophical and theoretical level, as well as simply questioning events and characters on the screen itself. It does a good job playing with that, but don't expect a lot of action in that regard either - it's much more akin to the slow-burn psycho-thrillers then it is your standard I, Robot or Terminator.
Effects would be imagined to be absolutely stellar in a movie that's so heavily based on the premise of AI so good it's beyond uncanny. It then strikes a bit odd that the actual main AI's CG is a bit...well, let's say it's certainly not hitting the uncanny valley at all. The actress does a good job even with the CG-"enhanced" cyber-body, and does a pretty good job with the facial expressions. There's a few other moments when the CG is a bit off as well, mostly dealing with past iterations of the project, but it's not all bad either. Particularly, the effects for the cyber-brain "wetware" is impressive, and it makes for a very pretty rock. There's also a bit a scene that had me remembering some moments from Terminator as well, and the effects during it aren't terrible either.
In a way, I feel like the location was possible where most the money went in this movie - but it is a beautiful location. Maybe it's meant to contrast the cold hard science feel of the workshop and AI, it wouldn't be beyond a movie of this sort to go the "deeper meaning" route - although I'm hardly ever the person to look for and drag those things out. Still, the house is amazing, and the incredibly small cast does help provide a more claustrophobic if not personal feel to the events playing out before your eyes. Audio levels come across well balanced as well, which is an important thing in any movie that's so dialogue heavy - and some of it gets pretty technical, so the anti-science big-words club might get kind of offended watching this.
Would I tell others to go watch this though? By all means, it's not a bad movie. It played with some old ideas in some nifty ways and managed to work in some second guessing and twist potentials throughout because of it. That being said, it's very, very much a DRAMA. If you don't like drama, then you won't like it. It's barely got anything as far as actual action is considered, so it's very much a talk-heavy presentation that although polished isn't going to hold everyone's attention. That being said, I wouldn't tell people to avoid it either, so it's very much something that I think you can get a decent feel for by just checking out the trailer and seeing if it strikes you as something you want to watch.