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Writer-director Alex Garland (writer-producer of 28 Days Later and Sunshine) engineers a film in Ex Machina that speaks to the astronomically escalating advances of technology and its impact on our understanding of what it means to be human in a future that doesn’t seem that far removed from the present. Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a shy programmer working anonymously within the confines of a giant corporation dedicated to being the best search engine on the planet, wins the career opportunity lottery — a chance to spend a week with Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the company’s reclusive founder, and test the latest ground-breaking project burped out of the genius’ mysterious mind.

Nathan believes that he is close to perfecting a robot with artificial intelligence on the border of a human’s responsive capabilities and he wants Caleb to test his prototype, Ava (Alicia Vikander), to see if he has indeed created life. It becomes clear that whether or not Caleb and/or Nathan believe the claim, Ava soon begins to, which sets up the dueling dynamic of man’s attempts to usurp God alongside a robot’s efforts to stake his/her case for humanity, which boils down to a fight to retain life, despite the wishes and/or intentions of the creator. (R) Grade: A