There are spoilers in this review. Duh.

This is an interesting movie. It’s very well done. The actors are all fantastic. I generally find this kind of science fiction excellent. I do think there were a few flaws in it. I think it should have taken place maybe over a longer time. I’m not sure I believe what happens in only a few days. I’m always skeptical of that. This reminds me of Black Mirror. It’s funny that Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson are in this, and then they were both in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. What’s up with that? I guess they’re just rising stars right now. This was nominated for several Oscars, and it won the Best Visual Effects award. I saw this like all the other Oscar movies before it aired, so I could see what the big deal was. I’m surprised I didn’t see this sooner since it’s right up my alley. Here we go!

Computer programmer Caleb is given a one-week visit to this very reclusive but brilliant man named Nathan, who is the CEO of Caleb’s company. Caleb is pretty wow’ed by the legendary Nathan, but maybe a little uncomfortable with Nathan’s callous and very odd personality. There’s something very creepy about Nathan from day one. His obliviousness to how people generally react, for example. He’s just odd. But charismatic too! He wants Caleb to meet this AI he’s created named Ava. He’s trying to see if she can pass the Turing test, which more or less means that she seems like she could pass for human. But he wants a second opinion from Caleb. Caleb gets to know Ava and finds her intriguing, and he’s a little confused when the lights occasionally flicker and power outages happen. The power outages are caused by Ava, who is doing them to have private conversations with Caleb. She wants to escape and he starts to develop romantic feelings for her. See, I’d maybe buy this more if I knew more about him, but a few days to get attached to Ava seems like it’s a stretch.

Caleb gets disturbed when he realizes that Nathan’s servant Kyoko is also an android, and that he’s callously destroyed his others whenever they didn’t go the way he wanted. Of course, in Nathan’s mind they’re just robots and not really capable of pain or opinions. To Caleb, he sees them a little more as people, and so seeing their body parts and him ripping them apart is more terrifying. He doesn’t want that to happen to Ava, so he makes a deal with her to try to get her out. He uses Nathan’s drinking to get his key card and let her out. This is after Nathan reveals this wasn’t a test for Ava, really, it was a test for Caleb. Since Caleb fell for Ava and treated her like a real woman, it means that she is successfully passing as a human. But he’s shocked when Ava and Kyoko together kill Nathan. Caleb thinks they’ll run off together, buuuuut nope. Ava coldly locks him away and leaves. Who knows if Caleb will ever get free, no one ever goes up to that place and it’s all locked down. It’s creepy but also kind of fitting?

So this was a solid film! Outside of the hurrying up of the romance, I enjoyed the story itself. It did make me think of Her, but in the sense that in that movie they had months to develop romantic entanglements. It’s not like in two days the main character there fell in love with her. It was a process. I feel like the rush of this damaged my belief that Caleb would not only love her but help her more or less kill Nathan. He seemed like he would have gone with Ava afterward if she let him, anyway. Oscar Isaac does a fantastic job here. Nathan is despicable and eccentric, but fascinating to watch to. You hate him but you’re drawn in by him too. He’s shut himself away so he doesn’t know how to deal with people, or how to treat anything with respect. But he’s brilliant and diabolical too. Caleb is a little more blah. I’m not sure why he’s so inclined to fall for Ava, or to forget entirely that she’s AI. He is set up to be very lonely and awkward himself, so that’s it, and timid. But it seems like a lot to believe he’d transform so much over just a few days. Kyoko for me was the saddest part, treated so terribly by Nathan and used as a sex bot/slave. There were strong performances, and it’s a very interesting science fiction flick. It’s thought provoking and didn’t need action. It’s not unique, it’s a pretty common storyline in science fiction and AI stories, but it still is an intense watch. And well worth a little time and popcorn.

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