Ex Machina is both tastily minimal and frustratingly simplistic.
Alex Garland's directing debut (he wrote 28 Days Later and Sunshine) is, in essence, a three-hander about three people in a house. OK, a high-tech mansion, but you get the point.
Yet, after tantalizing us with increasingly imaginative developments and the promise of catharsis, Garland lets it all dribble away at the end.
Domhnall Gleeson plays Caleb, a programmer at an unnamed tech company who wins a prize as the film begins. He will get to spend a week with the company's founder and head genius, Nathan (Oscar Isaac, who, with a shaved head and big beard, could double for the late Shel Silverstein).
Think Bill Gates or Steve Jobs -- except this guy is a muscular, hard-drinking alpha with a bit of a god complex. But he's a benevolent god, at least to Caleb. Nathan overwhelms him with hospitality, then announces that what he's won is the chance to conduct a Turing test on a new bit of artificial intelligence he's invented.
Specifically, he will meet and speak with Ava (Alicia Vikander), an astonishingly human robot with realistically humanoid face, hands and feet attached to her bio-technic frame. When she puts on a wig and clothes, she looks like a woman.
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