Director : Alex Garland
Written by : Alex Garland
Domnhall Gleeson is becoming the go to guy when you need an inoffensive Gen-Y everyman. Here he plays Caleb, an IT employee who wins a competition to spend a week with his reclusive billionaire boss. "How long til we get to his estate?" Caleb asks the chopper pilot. "We've been flying over his estate for the last two hours." is the reply. It's a nice line and an invitation to have our expectations exceeded.
The remoteness of the boss' extravagant house is supposed to portray exclusivity and the secrets that can exist with seclusion, but it's hard not to suspect that it's also a way to limit the cast and minimise locations. But the stage-play bareness can be excused as this is more about exploring ideas than the outside world.
Oscar Isaac's billionaire, Nathan, immediately tries to show Caleb that's he's just a normal guy, here "grab a beer". But the underlying dichotomy is clear in everything he does. He works a punching bag, but moves around it more like a dancer than a boxer and even his strong beard seems at war with his baldness.
Nathan's house, or 'research facility' as he calls it, is impressive. Built into rock, it's a polished concrete floored Enterprise complete with an alien looking maid who floats in and out of rooms on mute. When the tour of the house reaches Nathan's lab, the true nature of his work is revealed. This is film is about life, how it's created and most importantly, how it is defined.
When we find that Caleb is not so normal either, we lose the everyman that we thought we came in with. His presence there is not by chance, but by Nathan's design and his expertise is needed to validate that his latest humanoid robot has achieved Artificial Intelligence. Nathan watches the interviews through cameras both visible and hidden. The best omnipresence that money can buy.
The most successful scenes are with Caleb and Ava (Alicia Vikander ) the Robot as she learns what it is to be a person, whereas the human relationship between Nathan and Caleb never really settles on a consistent tone and leaves you wanting a little more (we'll have to hope their paths cross in Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Writer /Director Alex Garland hammers the script with biblical quotes and religious overtones, leaning heavily on an allusion to Nathan's God like status. Oddly this power seems to depress him and it leaves you wondering that maybe on the seventh day God rested because he was hungover.