Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson from “About Time”) is a delightful young man who wins the ultimate prize: a week with the eccentric owner of Blueprint, the top search engine in the world. When he finally gets to the remote subterranean compound and meets Nathan (Oscar Isaac from “Inside Llewyn Davis“), he is a little freaked out. Instead of a week of geek talk and just hanging out, Nathan wants him to conduct the Turing Test on his new Artificial Intelligent robot. This is where Caleb gets to ask it lots of questions and see if he can tell if it’s a machine or just like the girls he meets on Long Island.
Caleb is a brilliant programmer himself, and when he first meets Ava (Alicia Vikander from “Son of a Gun”) he tries to break down her response algorithms. This is something I usually try on the third date. Caleb is a nerd with just the right mix of boyish charm and computer aptitude to match wits with both Nathan and Ava, but soon he has to decide which one to trust. And he must figure out who and what is really being tested.
I was impressed by writer/director Alex Garland (“Sunshine”) and how he elevated this classic sci-fi setup while keeping some of the familiar touchstones. The connection to “Blade Runner” is obvious and perfectly updated, as Caleb knows Ava is a machine from the beginning. This reminded me most of the old Star Trek episode “Mudd’s Women,” which first appeared in 1966. While keeping the sex appeal of that episode, Garland has chosen to humanize the robot experience in a very simple and unique way. In then end, we are amazed and horrified at the same time – the way I used to be around the fourth date.
I found the movie to be quite intriguing and enjoyable. While there were some cool special effects, they only served the character and servo-driven drama. What some movies try to do with hundreds of people and robots on a massive scale, this movie did with just a few “people” in a few rooms. For that, I must give this movie 4 stars out of 5. Now I want to dig out my old Erector set and get to work.
Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site: https://bashmovies.wordpress.com