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Film Review: 'Ex Machina'

April 23, 2015 6:22 a.m.

KPBS film Critic Beth Accomando reviews "Ex Machina."

Related Story: 'Ex Machina' Serves Up Cerebral Sci-Fi


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ANCHOR INTRO: Movies have had a long fascination with robots and artificial intelligence. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando says the new film Ex Machina (pronounce MAH-KEEN-AH) uses state of the art special effects to deliver a smart new take on A-I.

Caleb’s a young programmer just recruited by his reclusive genius boss Nathan to administer the Turing test to Nathan’s latest AI creation.

CLIP Do you have a name… yes, I’m Ava

The Turing Test assesses a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior on par with that of a human. But Caleb worries that Nathan has biased the results by making Ava beautiful and flirtatious.

CLIP Did you program her to like me?... I programmed her to be heterosexual just like you were programed to be heterosexual… No one programmed me to be straight… You think you had a choice? Of course you were programmed, by nature or by nurture or by both.

The antagonistic relationship between Caleb and Nathan provides the perfect battleground for ideas. Caleb brings a sense of morality to the playing field suggesting it's one's ability to distinguish right from wrong that makes us human. But perhaps it’s a will to survive that proves our defining trait and the one that drives Ava to develop a sophisticated intelligence.

The film marks the directorial debut of writer Alex Garland, who wrote 28 Days Later. He delivers a smart and surprisingly assured sci-fi thriller that explores how we define being human.

"Ex Machina" is a stylish film that resists sentimentality in favor of invigorating intellectual debate.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.