Alex Garland's directorial debut is an artificial intelligence film that asks the right questions
From Interstellar or Transcendence to the lovelorn smartphone in Her, artificial intelligence was cinema’s hot new theme in 2014. But novelist and screenwriter Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later) is not merely surfing the zeitgeist: this directorial debut is timely by design. Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a programmer who spends a week with his elusive boss, Nathan (the superb Oscar Isaac, clubbable yet creepy in that tech whizz-kid way), trying to assess whether Nathan’s robot, Ava (Alicia Vikander), has attained consciousness. It could have just been a Frankenstein for the search-engine generation, but Ex Machina soars because Garland asks the right questions and makes the right connections. It’s compulsive and disconcerting viewing.