Having won some sort of lottery, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a gifted programmer for a Google stand-in dubbed Bluebook—after Ludwig Wittgenstein’s notebook—is helicoptered deep into the otherwise inaccessible wilderness where Bluebook founder Nathan (Oscar Isaac) lives, seemingly alone, in some ultra-luxurious cottage-laboratory-compound. Caleb is there to perform the Turing test—which determines whether a machine can convincingly exhibit human intelligence—on a robot Nathan has been developing, though from the get-go Nathan modifies the Turing rules, most notably by allowing Caleb to meet Ava (Alicia Vikander) face-to-face. Which is to say that Ava, humanoid and female, does indeed have a face, a very pretty one, and a very pretty figure, albeit one whose limbs, midriff and neck are sheathed in some see-thru material, exposing the mechanical parts underneath. Ava may be unmistakably mechanical, but she and Caleb, the only person she’s met besides Nathan, have instant chemistry. Ava seems to trust Caleb—and, during one of the compound’s regular blackouts, advises him not to trust Nathan. But how much of Caleb’s interaction with Ava is designed? Can Ava be autonomous?
"But there’s still enough here, especially in the nuance of performance, to heartily recommend the film to the curious. Ex Machina bends to convention, but doesn’t break in the process."