Ava (Alicia Vikander) doesn’t mean to scare you. She only wants to get inside your head. The heroine of Alex Garland’s Ex Machina has sharp blue eyes, an even, inquisitive voice and skin so clear it seems to soften the air around it. She’s also a robot, pieced together by a reclusive genius in a house shrouded by mountains, and her thought processes are sparked by the terms millions of humans are keying into Blue Book, the world’s most popular internet search engine.
Ava’s creator, the alpha-male tech guru Nathan (Oscar Isaac), describes his eureka moment thusly: it was when he realised that Blue Book didn’t simply tell him what people all over the world were thinking, but how they were thinking too… Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) has won a staff lottery to visit Nathan at his isolated home-slash-HQ, a helicopter ride away, to bear witness to the company’s top-secret new product… The aim of the week-long visit is for Caleb to carry out a Turing Test: over the course of seven daily encounters with Ava, he has to get to know her and decide whether or not she can pass for a human being… This is bewitchingly smart science fiction of a type that’s all too rare. Its intelligence is anything but artificial.