By Peter Killip.
Having been something of a hot property in the scribe world for a good while and being a gun for hire for discerning genre directors, it was just a matter of time before Alex Garland decided to take the Director’s chair himself. At first glance, there seemed not much more to the idea of the film other than a “What If?” Scenario where Charlie Brooker penned “Blade Runner”, not a gruelling thought but by Christ I’m glad I was wrong.
Running at a lean 108 minutes, there’s no time wasted, not too far removed from a contemporary setting, we’re introduced to Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), an employee at the world’s largest search engine – BlueBook, as he wins a trip to spend a week with the reclusive owner/creator of the company Nathan ( Oscar “I’m in everything these days, no seriously, check it out.” Isaac) at his remote home, hang out with the socially awkward boss and that.
Sounds a bit weird and awkward dunnit? Yeah, tip of the iceberg mate. All of this is foreplay to what is really expected of young Caleb, Nathan has been developing the next step of evolution with a kind of self governing A.I. Over there and requires a fresh pair of eyes to perform a set of tests ( the film is eerily split into “sessions” ) to see if his creation could really pass as consciousness . What follows is some of the most cleverly written themes and dialogue I’ve seen on the big screen in quite some time, a startlingly sure footed debut that has one foot in the big screen science fiction camp and the other firmly in the philosophical .
Plenty of food for thought here, with our going the way of the caveman, what does it mean to be human, what does it mean by “Artificial Intelligence” and plenty of morality/mortality themes vying for contention and a performance as Ava ( Alicia Vikander ) that is smart, tense, affecting and threatens to blow the two male leads out of the water. This is the sign of a disciplined storyteller given reign with his vision, not a single superfluous scene in my mind and hope he’s comfortable in the big seat because I can’t wait to see what he’s got up his sleeve next.
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