Ex Machina

EX MACHINA is the one of the most thought provoking, intelligent & aesthetically pleasing movies of 2015 and one of the best artificial-intelligence science-fictions ever made. It is a robot movie similar but like no other and sadly it’s release in Australia was incredibly limited and brief but they raced it out onto Blu Ray/ DVD back in September so I have owned it for a bit and have watched it multiple times. Due to my love for EX MACHINA it is in a constant battle with three other films for the top position in my Top 20 movies of 2015 which will release on January 15th. EX MACHINA is released from Universal Pictures Australia, is rated MA15+ and runs for 108mins.


Ex Machina Movie Poster image
Ex Machina | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Movie Poster image



Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a young programmer, is selected to participate in a groundbreaking experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.. He is to perform the Turing Test over the space of a week on Ava.

The Turing test is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Alan Turing proposed that a human evaluator would judge natural language conversations between a human and a machine that is designed to generate human-like responses.

Ava’s creator, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), is Caleb’s boss and also one of the richest men alive, in this universe he created the largest search engine in history used by (something like) 90% of the world. He appears to be a genius in every sense of the word, including being a recluse who is happier tinkering with his robots than being in the world. His compound that houses Ava is set on an expansive property removed from the world and only accessible by helicopter, if he was a megalomaniac, it would be the ideal Bond lair location.


Ex Machina Alicia Vikander as Ava image
Ex Machina | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Alicia Vikander as Ava image


The ethical intelligence in this movie is next level, what is the ethics for creation? By creating an A.I. does this make Nathan a god? What rights does he have over the said creation if in fact it is completely sentient? If Ava fails Caleb’s Turing Test on her what will happen to her? Why is Ava locked up? Why is she in the form of a beautiful woman? Surely the desire for freedom is enough for Ava to be classified an artificial intelligence? Can she/ it fall in love? All of these A.I. ethics questions are raised in most A.I. movies but EX MACHINA goes further, is Nathan solely inviting Caleb there to perform the Turing Test, why was it Caleb selected?


Nathan already knows Ava is a perfect A.I., I would believe that Nathan would laugh at the Turing Test and claim he doesn’t care for something so common to judge his creation by  – Ava has enough thought and intelligence and can read micro facial expressions and knows she wants to leave and discover and is uncertain as to why she is locked up, she has never seen outdoors or had the actual ground under her feet, she longs for more, but is this due to self choice or via her programming? Her intelligence system is hooked into the greatest search engine of all time and Nathan hacked every phone on the planet simultaneously (with more pride than moral guilt of any form) and turned the cameras on so she is aware of 90% of the world’s facial expressions and their meanings.

The creation of the intelligence is a minor accomplishment for Nathan, the control and game he is playing with the intelligence to test and taunt it is his goal, he believes he has created something evolved and nearly as intelligent as himself. He really wants to know if Ava, an artificial intelligence, can basically seduce Caleb (a human) into falling in love with her and setting her free, Nathan of course, would always be steps ahead though. What exactly are his motives for creating an A.I.? I do not believe they would fit the ethical boundaries humanity would be willing to accept.


ex machine movie image
Ex Machina | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Nathan (Oscar Isaac) and Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) image


Most of the movie is set in the one house, Nathan’s compound, a stunning place that is totally mind blowing and completely electronically controlled. It is actually filmed in the Hotel Juvet in Norway, I am in love with this place and it is on the bucket list, not too bad actually, about $250 AUD per night.

The location and the austere aesthetics of the entire film make my OCD buzz with sexual excitement. It is like the Ikea concept store had a threesome with nature and the future and this was the creation. It is almost heavenly and this contributes to the birthing of creation, a place so natural and beautiful being the birthplace of artificial intelligence is ironic in its beauty.

The movie has limited cast and would make a brilliant stage production. The cast is amazing. Both STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS alumni Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson are brilliant in their roles and Alicia Vikander will make many people long for a cold shower after seeing her so beautiful, vulnerable and innocent as Ava.


Ex Machina movie image
Ex Machina | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno) and Nathan (Oscar Isaac) doing the creepy dance image


The script is simple and intelligent and while the story is about testing a robot what the film is really studying is what it is like to be human and the screenplay will never let you get comfortable, while slow paced this movie will not be for everyone but the quirkiness, oddness and intelligence will impress most. You would never expect the above dance scene in this movie but it is perfect in its timing to dumbfound both Caleb and the audience.

For a debut directorial movie Alex Garland has produced something measured and skilled beyond his years, EX MACHINA is nearly Kubrickian in its delivery. Garland has written two of my favourite books; THE BEACH and THE TESSERACT and since his third book, COMA, he moved into screenplay writing and his work as a screenwriter is out of this world: 28 DAYS LATER, 28 WEEKS LATER, SUNSHINE, NEVER LET ME GO and more recently DREDD, I should point out not one failure for any of these screenplays once made into a movie, they were all not box office success stories but all of them are critically acclaimed. He has a visual style of writing and I am so glad he decided to step away from the laptop (after writing this movie) and get behind the camera, the world needs more of his style.


Ex Machina Ava image
Ex Machina | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Alicia Vikander as Ava image


Caleb alludes to the fact that only gods can create new life. And while this is a futuristic retelling of Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST the three main characters all have biblical names. Ava is a form of Eve, the first woman, Nathan was a prophet in the court of David, and Caleb was a spy sent by Moses to evaluate the Promised Land.

The title derives from the Latin phrase ‘Deus Ex-Machina’, meaning ‘a god From the Machine’, a phrase that originated in Greek tragedies. An actor playing a god would be lowered down via a platform (machine) and solve the characters’ issues, resulting in a happy ending for all.

My excitement and love for this film increased while learning about it, just hearing about the names and the title meaning above was enough for me to squeal at the level of nuance put into this work of tragic Shakespearean futuristic movie art, it is perfection.


5 Pops



Jason King is the owner and editor of Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia and has been in the Australian movie industry for 25yrs. He loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. All the social media links to the right and up will allow you to abuse, troll or stalk him :).


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