Ex Machina – BLUE’S BEATS #22
Alex Garland both wrote and directed the 2015 sci-fi thriller, Ex Machina, starring Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, and Oscar Isaac. Exploring themes of choice and humanity, the film opened modestly, but to critical acclaim.
You can read a PDF of Garland’s screenplay here.
A young programmer is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breath-taking female A.I.
The film opens on an ultra sleek and modern tech company, the kind you would expect in Silicon Valley. Caleb, our protagonist (Gleeson), has just learned that he has been chosen in a lottery to spend a week with the company’s CEO. Interestingly, the script cuts from Caleb’s perspective to the perspective of his computer or cell phone several times, implying that Caleb’s selection may not have been as simple and random as a lottery.
Much of the script’s opening is left on the cutting room floor, as several pages are reduced to several seconds in the film. The information is still conveyed, just more efficiently.
Caleb is flown by helicopter to a massive, extremely private estate in Alaska. There he meets Nathan (Isaac), the CEO, as he works a punching bag, page 14. Almost instantly, Nathan is characterized as somewhat of a mysterious character, perhaps not to be trusted. He is a recluse, apt to get wasted drunk by himself, with very forward and invasive mannerisms. His characterization plays well off of Caleb, who is more passive and less intimidating.
Page 16, Nathan asks Caleb to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and the true nature of Caleb’s visit is revealed. Nathan has created an Artificial Intelligence, Ava, and Caleb has been chosen to perform a Turing Test, determining if she possesses true A.I. capable of passing for human.
PLOT POINT ONE
Page 28, Caleb begins to feel uneasy upon finding that the television channels are comprised of live CCTV footage of Ava’s room from varying angles. Power blackouts make him feel isolated, as if in a prison, but such outages are revealed to give him and Ava a sense of privacy.
Page 51, Ava reveals her more human aspects, dressing up for Caleb. She tells him of her curiosity and desire to go to a busy city traffic intersection, providing a, “concentrated but shifting view of human life.” Caleb’s attraction to Ava begins to grow. On page 55, Caleb confronts Nathan and the two discuss Ava’s sexuality. Caleb trusts Nathan less and less.
PLOT POINT TWO
Page 77, Caleb meets with Ava and, over the course of the conversation, Ava reveals that she has been responsible for the blackouts preventing Nathan from viewing their interactions. On page 81, she tells Caleb that she wants to be with him, but Nathan wouldn’t allow it. Caleb begins to form a plan to escape with Ava, a desire which is fueled after discovering video recordings of Nathan’s interactions with previous A.I. models, page 88.
CRISIS AND CLIMAX
Nathan reveals to Caleb that he knows of the plot to escape with Ava, page 99. Caleb realizes that he was a tool in the Turing Test, not the facilitator. He was meant to be used by Ava to escape, essentially proving true A.I. Ava’s plan is set in motion, but even Nathan is caught by surprise. Kyoko, revealed to be another robot, kills him, page 109. Ava readies herself for her first journey into the world and leaves Caleb behind, locked in the bunker of a house. Caleb calls for her, page 114, but she leaves him without looking back.
Ava is taken away in a helicopter, her plan to escape a success. The final image is of a busy traffic intersection and a glimpse of Ava.