I had a day off work today, so I decided to check out this movie, especially since it’s ending its run soon. Day sessions are weird; there were only three other people in the cinema and one of them, a guy with crazy hippy hair and a beard, seemed to be something of a mutterer – he mostly kept quiet though, thank god. There were also scuffling noises coming from the roof throughout the session, as if a bunch of possums decided to throw a party.
The movie was essentially a three-actor affair in an insular, claustrophobic setting. Caleb, a young programmer who works for a company which is pretty much Google, wins a competition to visit the home/research lab of Nathan, the reclusive owner of the company, who lives in a remote, unspecified location which to me looked a lot like Norway. There, Nathan asks Caleb to apply the Turing test to his creation, Ava, to see if she’s capable of behaviour equivalent to human. Caleb is clearly the character who is meant to be a stand-in for the audience, so he inevitably ends up being the least interesting one, though Domhnall Gleeson is an appealing presence and does well with what he’s got.
I’ve only seen Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis (a film I’m not sure I liked all that much but which definitely stuck in my mind regardless), and he was completely unrecognisable here; the guy’s got range. Nathan was an interesting take on a genius scientist as a muscular charismatic jock; as Caleb finds out later he is also something of a misogynistic asshole. Alicia Vikander I haven’t seen in anything at all and if there’s any fairness she should get big some time soon; other than being gorgeous she’s got a wonderfully intelligent, sensitive face and expressive eyes. Her Ava is probably the most striking AI since Samantha in Her, and is a magical blend of Vikander’s face and a robotic body created with visual effects. I loved the attention to detail that went into the character, from her graceful yet oddly inhuman movements to the inner workings of her transparent body. Overall, visually the film was beautiful and stylish. The natural settings of mountains and waterfalls are stunning, but most of the film takes place in the interior. They’ve done a great job designing Nathan’s luxuriant yet sterile sci-fi lair which is both futuristic and familiar, and contributes a lot to the sense of ever-rising tension and dread.
Some time near the end, the story turns into a more conventional thriller with outcomes that aren’t particularly interesting, which I found a bit disappointing. Also, the movie touches on some intriguing questions about gender and identity, but doesn’t really explore them to any great depth – it kinda felt like, at the end, the writers cared more about the story twists rather than the themes. Still, very glad that I watched the movie.
As a totally random aside, why the heck did I read a spoiler for the second-last episode of Game of Thrones?? Now I’ll have to watch the entire season dreading what’s coming.