Ex Machina: First Look And Plot Details For Alex Garland’s Robot Thriller

By Brent McKnight | Updated

This article is more than 2 years old

Ex MachinaWe haven’t heard much from Alex Garland’s directorial debut, the psychological robot thriller Ex Machina, for almost a year. The last news we heard about the film involved putting the final casting in place. Production has apparently passed rather smoothly, since now we’ve got our first look at the finished product, as well as an official synopsis.

Garland is most widely known as a writer. He penned such notable genre favorites as 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Dredd. For his first turn behind the camera he’s assembled a cast that is headed by Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Domhnall Gleeson (About Time), and Alicia Vikander (The Fifth Estate). This is the second time Gleeson and Vikander have worked together, as both appeared in Joe Wright’s 2012 adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

The official synopsis is rather brief:

Ex Machina is an intense psychological thriller, played out in a love triangle between two men and a beautiful robot girl. It explores big ideas about the nature of consciousness, emotion, sexuality, truth and lies.

That’s a vague, but promising description. From this first picture, you have to assume that Isaac and Gleeson are the two men spoken of, and it is no great leap to deduce that Vikander plays the lovely automaton in question, following in the footsteps of actresses like Sean Young in Blade Runner. Isaac, with his shaved head, bushy beard, and fancy table full of metal skulls, which is a creepy combination, appears to be the robot‘s inventor.

While details are sparse on the official front, there is still more to tell. Talking to the Playlist, Isaac went into much greater depth, talking not only about the plot, but also touching on the settings, themes, and more in depth when it comes to the story. He said:

It’s [set] in the not-too-distant future—it actually could very well be the present, it’s a little bit undefined—and it all takes place in a house, or at least in a facility. I play a billionaire programmer who’s developing algorithms for the most popular search engine in the world and no one’s seen him or heard from him in quite a long time and one of his employees wins a raffle to come to his place in Alaska and test his newest invention, which happens to be a robot in the female form that may or may not have consciousness…So it’s very allegorical to the human experience and how you will never know if the way you see the world or the way that I do. We can try to describe it to each other but we will never truly know and it’s pretty amazing.

Ex Machina should not be confused with Bryan K. Vaughn’s post-9/11 comic book of the same name. While that is a title that definitely needs to be adapted by someone with more time and money than I have, the two are very, very different animals.

There’s no word on when Ex Machina might hit theaters, but with Cannes and other big festivals looming on the horizon, there is speculation that the film could premiere sooner rather than later.