The less you know going into this mesmerizing mind-bender, the better. But know this: Screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go) has made a striking directing debut with Ex Machina. The story spins on Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleason), a coder who’s been chosen to spend a week with his reclusive billionaire boss, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), a hard-drinking Internet genius with a God complex. It’s not just a grand tour of his secret lab in Alaska that Nathan has in mind for Caleb. This young geek, charmed by Nathan’s cool-dude manner, is going to participate in the guru’s latest experiment in artificial intelligence.
I know, I know. You’ve seen all this A.I. stuff before, most recently in the dazzling Her and the disappointing Chappie. But never like this. Garland is no showoff. He’s a minimalist, hot for ethical shop talk on what defines humanity or lack of same. Luckily, his sense of humor is equally keen. Nathan invites Caleb to test android Ava (a knockout Alicia Vikander) to see how well she can simulate human behavior and sexuality. Oh, baby, you have no idea. Isaac’s brilliant take on this bearded, buzz-cut and barefoot Dr. Frankenstein is a tour de force of shock and awe. Ex Machina springs surprises that will haunt you for a good long time.