Two male characters spending the majority of the movie discussing human consciousness and tackling philosophical questions may not sound like an interesting hook to some, but its execution in Ex Machina is truly a work of art, and embodies the tradition of classic science fiction. Like Domnhall Gleeson, one of the movie’s main actors said: “Just because something is science fiction doesn’t make it just spaceships. In my head, they tell you more about people than they do about machines.”
Alex Garland, screenplay writer of 28 Days Later and Never Let Me Go makes his directorial debut with Ex Machina. The title of the movie alone evokes the universal question all of science fiction tries to answer: “What makes us human?” Ex Machina, or “from the machine”, immediately incites feelings of the uncanny, challenging our preconceived notions of what it means to be human.
The movie sets itself up innocently enough, in that it deceives its audience into a seemingly simple plot. A programmer of the world’s most popular internet search company, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), wins a contest to meet his hero, one he describes as the “Mozart of Computer Programming” – Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Caleb then travels to Nathan’s abode, where we are first introduced into the first lie, in a movie where the central theme is deception and manipulation. Nathan’s hideout and laboratory is in the middle of a natural, beautiful landscape, the exterior of which is an inconspicuous cabin in he middle of the forest. Upon entering, Caleb finds himself in an immense mansion, complete with modern decoration, minimalist furniture, a vacant-looking Japanese maid, and a variety of android skins bearing creepy human expressions as decorations on the wall.