Stanley Kubrick move over, here’s director Alex Garland’s surreal and expertly crafted science fiction/fact thriller about man, machine, and artificial intelligence that, as Prof. Stephen Hawking put it, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”. Boy, he ain’t kiddin’
A contest winner at BlueBook, the world’s #1 search engine, a super-smart programmer named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is invited to spend a week at the CEO’s hidden mountain retreat/fortress. Sound’s like fun, right? Once he gets there, he discovers that genius scientist and CEO Nathan (Oscar Issac), who has a passion for computers (as well as alcohol), has other plans for Caleb. There’s no one else around, except for Nathan’s mute Japanese assistant, Kiyoko (Somoyo Mizuno.)
Nathan has secretly built an A.I. female android named Ava (Alicia Vikander) who needs to be, shall we say, tested by another person who isn’t her creator. Nathan must see if, by Caleb’s interaction with Ava, she is truly a functioning A.I. that is self-aware on all levels. Caleb is fascinated and thrilled to be the first person to do this, and what a pupil she is! With the face of a beautiful girl, but the see-through body of a machine, she is anything but robotic in her answers. But with the mysterious power outages that frequent the compound, Ava confides to Caleb not to trust Nathan. An android that is worried? Uh-oh!
Days go by with the Q & A sessions revealing more and more personal info from Caleb and Ava dressing up like a normal girl with clothes and a wig. Is she actually having feelings of love for Caleb and is he having the same feelings for her? Nathan continues to monitor the progress as Caleb notices Nathan’s bizarre behavior with Kiyoko, frequent drinking binges, and constant lying and hiding the truth.
Curious one night after Nathan passes out, Caleb visits a secret room and discovers Nathan’s deep, dark disturbing secret and decides he has to leave and take Ava with him to safety. The shocking conclusion pulls the rug out from under his plans, as things go from bad to worse as your jaw slowly drops and you recall the words of Mr. Hawking.
Stylized and exquisitely filmed to resemble something the great Stanley Kubrick would have done, first-time director Alex Garland, who also wrote the screenplay, delivers not only a remarkably shot and assembled movie, but a brilliant and intelligent script that didn’t dumb-it-down for the audience. Show off! Whether his Kubrickesque homage was deliberate or accidental, I don’t know and I don’t care; this is some great film making with great performances.
Domhnall Gleeson (his dad’s Brendan Gleeson–who played Professor Moody in the Harry Potter movies), best known for playing Bill Weasly in the last two Harry Potter movies, is the quiet programming nerd who is in over his head and tries to be the hero of the story. His angst is clearly felt on screen while Oscar Isaac, (last seen in Inside Lleywn Davis) is sufficiently creepy, pandering, and likably terrifying as Nathan. He keeps you off-balance on whether he’s a certifiable nut-case, an anti-social mad genius, or something in-between. Then you have the Swedish import Alicia Vikander as Ava. The face of an angel and the body of a dancer, her motion-capture performance is wonderful as is her restrained performance of the learning android.
Cherry 2000 (1987)