For what it’s worth, Ex Machina is undeniably a very stylish and gorgeous looking movie. The contemporary but still slightly futuristic design that the movie is imbued with does a wonderful job at selling the central premise of performing the Turing test as believable. You easily buy into the idea that the world could possibly be on the brink of singularity becoming true, and the thought of it becomes extremely exciting and terrifying thought the further into the story you get.
The movie unfortunately falls in the typical pitfall of the twist laden thriller: by making everything seem mysterious and heavily suspicious from the start, you inevitably end up with a highly predictable story where your average viewer that pays attention will see most, if not all, of the many plot twists coming miles away because they will instantly begin to analyze and question every fact or detail the story asserts in the narrative. That said, despite it’s highly predictability and heavy reliance on twists to move the story forward, Alex Garland does manage to keep his directional debut from sinking like a Titanic on its maiden voyage thanks to his confident and masterful storytelling that keeps you fully engaged and entertained till the end credits begin to roll. He is of course also helped enormously by the excellent performances of the movie’s cast, Oscar Isaac especially shines through in his compelling performance as the dubious and shady Nathan, and Gleeson and Vikander also give a memorable and appropriately intense, but subtly human, portrayals in their respective roles. I liked its ambitious nature and provocative storytelling, you don’t often come across a good Sci-Fi movie that also makes you think and ponder about philosophical aspects of the story because the emphasis is usually on action rather than doing a human drama and asking tough questions about humanity and self awareness. Prometheus is a good example, it was a movie that tried to combine the two and failed to make the mix work under its own pretentious cleverness, though to be fair it was partly due to the unfortunate consequence of also trying to be a prequel to Alien.
The ending of Ex Machina is a bit of a disappointment, because I honestly would have liked to see them go one step further and done an additional twist that spun the entire premise upside down one last time, rather than play it so straight once the genie is quite literally released from the bottle and all is left up to Ava’s true feelings to decide. Of course this would have changed the theme and even ruined the symbolic side of the story, but I just didn’t feel the ultimate betrayal and following imprisonment was as powerful of an ending that the movie could have had. Had I been writing the ending, I would have gone for a more ambitious twist by revealing that the entire Turing test scenario and the intended introduction of possibility of escape for Ava was actually all be part of a larger, more insidious and calculative test (Caleb would still remain largely an unwitting chess piece, not knowing the big picture and still performing him romantic act of heroism just as he was manipulated to do) conducted to see if an A.I with a “real” human consciousness in humanoid body could be allow to exist and operate under its own “free will” without having any type of restraints of security protocols, such as Asimov’s three laws of robotics implemented to its programming to guarantee humanity’s safety.