The Terrifying Sci-Fi Thriller On Max Shows Exactly How AI Outsmarts Humanity

By TeeJay Small | Updated

ex machina

These days artificial intelligence seems to be permeating everything from our entertainment, to our search engines, and even our academic research papers. While this may be a surprise to some, others have had formal training on the eventual destruction of humanity at the hands of an unthinking, unfeeling automaton, in the form of numerous films displaying exactly that. One such movie, 2014’s Ex Machina, offers a perfect example of how the generative menace could outsmart Earth’s mightiest human minds with ease.

Alex Garland

Ex Machina was written and directed by Civil War filmmaker Alex Garland in his directorial debut. In a bid to secure as much freedom over the material in his film as humanly possible, Garland intentionally sought to use the smallest budget he could manage. This resulted in a deeply intimate and small-scope movie, that still manages to look and feel incredibly authentic.


The film takes place almost entirely in one location, and utilizes mostly practical effects, with some of the most fascinating costume work and prosthetics ever committed to cinema.

Despite Ex Machina‘s lack of reliance on VFX shots, or perhaps because of them, the film received an Oscar Award for Best Visual Effects. Garland was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay, alongside a host of Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, and other shining accolades.

The Cast

oscar isaac

Ex Machina stars Alicia Vikander as Ava, an ultra-realistic humanoid robot, as well as Oscar Isaac and The White House Plumbers‘ Domhnall Gleeson, as a pair of tech engineers on the brink of developing new and exciting strides in artificial intelligence.

The film kicks off as Gleeson’s Caleb Smith wins an inter-office competition to visit and work alongside his company’s CEO on an exciting new project. Once he arrives at the home of his boss, Isaac’s Nathan Bateman, Caleb learns that the mission is to test the capabilities of Ava’s operating system.

Caleb’s Journey

Through a series of trials, Caleb engages in one-on-one discussions with Ava, growing closer to her as she analyzes his body language, vocal tenor, and other cues that even the most advanced robots shouldn’t be capable of picking up on.

Before long, Caleb finds himself questioning his own understanding of life, humanity, and the ethics of Bateman’s mission. As Ex Machina progresses to a thrilling ending, Ava proves to be extremely cunning, and possibly dangerous, as she guides Caleb and Bateman through a labyrinth of increasingly-unhinged demands.

Stream It Now

AI ex machina


Ex Machina has garnered massive critical acclaim, even receiving a near-perfect Rotten Tomatoes critic score of 92 percent. Alex Garland has since gone on to expand his catalogue with other highly-rated films such as Annihilation, Men, and Civil War. While the movie was already prescient upon its 2014 premiere, Ex Machina feels even more relevant today, as the use of AI tools such as ChatGPT and Sora become a part of our everyday lives.

If you haven’t yet had the chance to catch Ex Machina, or are just long-overdue for a rewatch, you can stream the film today on Max. Just make sure to power down your other electronic devices while you’re watching. We wouldn’t want that pesky smartphone of yours getting any funny ideas.