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Ex Machina

MPA Rating: R-Rating (MPA) for graphic nudity, language, sexual references and some violence.

Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.

Moral Rating: Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Adults
Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller Drama
Length: 1 hr. 50 min.
Year of Release: 2015
USA Release: April 10, 2015 (limited)
April 24, 2015 (wide)
DVD: July 14, 2015
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Relevant Issues
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artificial intelligence and android robots

consciousness and robotics

What is a soul?

Who was the first EVE?

THE FIRST MAN— What was Adam really like?

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Featuring Alicia VikanderAva
Domhnall GleesonCaleb
Oscar IsaacNathan
Sonoya Mizuno … Kyoko
Chelsea Li … Office girl
Evie Wray … Secretary
Corey Johnson … Helicopter Pilot
Symara A. Templeman … Jasmine
Deborah Rosan … Office Manager
Elina Alminas … Amber
Claire Selby … Lily
Ramzan Miah … Secretary
Johanna Thea … Office Worker
Director Alex Garland
Producer DNA Films
Distributor A24

The film’s title is pronounced ex mock-in-uh.

Critics have been calling “Ex Machina” a “cerebral movie,” but that is an oxymoron. Movies by their very nature are visual, not intellectual. They are about entertainment. Too often, when a movie tries to be cerebral, it becomes a boring movie full of people talking incessantly. “Ex Machina” is a film which tries to be both. It tries to be both cerebral and entertaining. Some claim that it has succeeded, but those of us who believe that man was created unique by God will not.

“Ex Machina” is about Artificial Intelligence. It asks whether man can create a robot that is more real than humans. In short, can man “create” artificial life. The very question itself assumes that man has no real soul. Indeed, atheist Isaac Asimov first popularized the notion of a human robot with the idea that “I think, therefore I am,” but is there more to being human than thinking? Are we more than evolved animals? These questions are not even asked by the film, although they underlie its very premise.

In the film, Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) is a computer programmer who “wins” a free week with a master computer engineer and millionaire owner of his company, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). The real reason for his visit, however, is that Nathan needs an “objective” opinion to determine whether or not he has created the world’s first true A.I.

Caleb is then introduced to Ava (Alicia Vikander — “Seventh Son”), an android with a perfect human-looking face, and an hourglass figure. It does not take long before Ava begins to act as if she is in love with Caleb, but he starts to wonder if she is really capable of love or if she is just pretending to love him in order to pass the A.I. test. Was she programmed to emulate love, or is she truly in love.

It becomes apparent that Caleb was not chosen at random, but rather that he was chosen because he is a lonely geek who has no women of his own. Soon, we begin to wonder who is being manipulated, and even Caleb begins to question his own identity.

Cinematic Review

This is a film which is impossible to review without spoilers. Since there are few major spoilers in the film, I feel this is safe, but the reader may choose to skip to the summary section if they wish…

The first thing to note about the film is that it based on a secular presupposition—namely, that man’s soul is nothing more than an intelligent brain programmed by society, culture, or other factors. The concept of a divinely created soul is never mentioned in the film, but one thing I did notice is that Caleb is drawn to Ava’s apparent capability to love. Indeed, only a true soul is capable of true love, but is Ava just pretending to love? The answer appears at the end of the film, and herein lies the spoiler.

Ava wants to escape from her captor, who is also her creator. It becomes clear that Nathan is a perverted narcissist and Ava wants to live. She has been playing Caleb to get her freedom, but when she is free she promptly murders Nathan and leaves Caleb to die after cutting power to a sealed room he is in. Caleb was just a tool. Ava is incapable of love. At least this is what I read into the film. It is not clear, however, whether or not the writer believes this. Throughout the film, he seems to imply that independent thought is the basis for life and a true A.I. More disturbing are the underlying sexual themes.

Ava’s creator is the narcissistic megalomaniac Nathan. He fancies himself a “god” but behaves like a teenage boy. It is apparent that his androids are built in large part to satisfy his sexual perversions… and he makes it clear that they have been programmed for sex. The Freudian overtones in the film are overt and ignore the true purpose for sex and sexuality as created by God. Sex, like love, is a tool for both Ava and Nathan.

The film itself is well made and manages to keep the audience’s interest, despite its long “talkie” or “cerebral” nature. Although the plot twists are largely predictable to science fiction aficionados, they are well done and effective. What is not, however, is the fact that the film is predictable, Freudian, and thoroughly secular, despite what is inherently a religious topic—the true nature of life itself.

Comparison’s to Frankenstein are warranted, including its Luciferic subplot, but, unlike Frankenstein, “Ex Machina” never captured my imagination. We are left staring at a sexually charged android through glass, wondering if she is really in love. By the time we find out, we already knew.

Objectionable Content

The most obvious is the overt sexual nature of the film. Full frontal nudity, including the strange fad of shaving private areas, is seen in many scenes, as Nathan’s android collection is revealed. Although there is no sex on screen, sex, devoid of love or marriage, is put on display. In one scene, Nathan asks Caleb, “When did you choose to be heterosexual?” Ironically, he implies that sexuality is not genetic (and no definite evidence has ever existed that homosexuality is genetic), but he then proceeds to promote the popular myth that bisexuality is the norm and that “society” programs our sexuality. Such false and perverse teachings, contrary to everything nature teaches us, only serves to illustrate the cold unfeeling approach to sex which the film promotes.

There is a lot of foul language in the film, much of it sexual in nature. I could not count the number of words, and don’t usually try, but they are plentiful, including the f-word, c-word, and many others.

Also, apparent is violence. While there are only a few violent scenes, they are done in a disturbing manner. In one scene, Caleb starts to suspect his own humanity and cuts open his wrist to see if he is real. The more violent scene is the murder of Nathan. Although not done in a gory fashion, it is the cold and brutal manner that makes the scene disturbing.

The film is not only blasphemous in its general vein, but Nathan himself calls himself a god, believing that he has created a being greater than man.


“Ex Machina” is a low brow Frankenstein, rewritten for the era of computers and the mythical notion of “Artificial Intelligence.” It borrows some Biblical imagery, such as Ava’s name (Ava is a different Anglicization of Eve), but ignores religion altogether. It is a purely secular Darwinistic view of life. The film seems to argue that man can create life which is superior to himself. It is also indwelled with an overt Freudian theme that makes sex nothing more than an animal instinct to be used for selfish gratification. People, and machines, are tools to be used.

I cannot recommend this film. While technically well made, it is slow paced, predictable, immoral, and somewhat blasphemous. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the film is the bleakness which atheism and a purely secular view of life creates. If you see this film, you will likely leave the theater feeling spiritually empty and drained.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy—“Jesus Christ” (2), OMG (2), damn (2), f-words (25+), s-words (5) / Sex/Nudity: Extreme

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I must confess I am disappointed in this review. I am disgusted by the amount of garbage Hollywood just keeps turning out just to keep the masses satisfied, but now, finally, here is a beautiful, brilliant, and extraordinary work of art. The review reads that a cerebral movie is an oxymoron? Cerebral means that, unlike most of the garbage that is produced today (Transformers, Twilight, etc.) which I would never even consider wasting my time on, the viewer finds himself intellectually stimulated and the film explores philosophical issues that leave an impact on the audience and causes him to think outside the box. See all »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Nathan, age 19 (USA)
Positive—From a purely technical standpoint, this film is very well done. Cinematography is simple, but great, particularly with its use of reflections. The score is so subtle, but accomplishes its purpose perfectly, with its eerie heart-like beating when Ava is on-screen and with the overall series of notes that evoke a sense of horror. Without any major action or special effects, for the most part, and with only 3 primary actors in one place, the movie does a good job of drawing your attention, as you see how the interactions between the characters develop.

Events happen that make you question whom you should trust and who is really testing/playing whom. I think the film contrasts/complements the advanced future-technology of the artificial intelligence with the natural background of the green trees where everything takes place, or maybe it’s trying to evoke some sort of Edenic garden-type motif along with what Dr. Criswell noticed about the relationship between Ava and Eve. In my opinion, Dr. Criswell under-rates the movie when he calls it a “low brow Frankenstein.” See all »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Jim, age 23 (USA)
Positive—This is a well done, if somewhat cerebral, film—a riff on Frankenstein in the era of the Internet, cell phones and data surveillance, also calling to mind Phillip Dick’s “Do androids dream of electric sheep” and its film version “Blade Runner.” The question “what does it mean to be human?” gets explored with answers about who is deceiving who (maybe this is the point), with a sub issue about the alpha smart male bonding of the tech world and how women (human or otherwise) get treated.

The film is also a series of riddles, quotations and scientific ideas to challenge the mind, while also the film’s atmosphere creates a sense of unease. There is some female android nudity, but the sexuality in the film really comes from the demure facial expressions and body language of the lead actresses. Christians who don’t want to see any sexuality or hear the f-word (or perhaps the idea that sexuality has something to do with the difference distinguishing humans from machines and computers) won’t like this film, nor perhaps the fact that the idea that humans are distinguished by having a God given soul is nowhere to be found in the riddle.

However, the idea that the high tech one percenter is becoming God, or like God, leads to the usual result of such thoughts, which should make Christians happy. There is probably less violence here than in 10 seconds of a “Star Wars” movie, but what there is is both improbable and disturbing. The question of how humanlike Ava, the android, really is, or will become, is left somewhat ambiguous, in a way that suggests the filmmakers are leaving room for a sequel. This is good science fiction of the AI genre, and like much of it, a cautionary tale.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Stanley Hirtle, age 70 (USA)
Positive—Good film, thoughtful, provocative. The flaws I see in it are not based in nudity, which is something God created and is beautiful. There is no extreme sexual content, even though sexual issues are present and incorporated. However, the problem I see in the film is that Ava’s moral or at least AI character did not reflect the background given for her character. If she had benefited from information from the search engine, as we were informed she was, then her decisions would have included the most basic drives that humans have, which include heroism, sacrifice, service, etc. Instead, she possessed a far more slanted, Darwinistic, what one might call self-serving traits only. It is as if her wetware ignored the most essential and basic qualities of human experience and action revealed to her in favor of inferior qualities that, as history reveals, time after time lead to self-destruction and failure. Something a computer would figure out.

Some interesting questions were raised, however, and I enjoyed the film, even though it is, at its core, simply a horror film. I think that computers and AI can solve problems for man, as tools have always done, and even to help guide him to function both alone and societally in a way that is much closer to his own divine nature. I wish this film had explored this idea more.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Doszkocs, age 41 (USA)
Positive—This movie would be perfect, if it weren’t for the nudity. In fact, the nudity is the only reason I’ve chosen not to own this movie.

I completely disagree with this review when the reviewer says that movies can’t be cerebral. In my view, the best movies are cerebral, and “Ex Machina” is a cerebral movie.

What I love about “Ex Machina” is that it takes a very serious approach to an interesting concept. The characters are extremely realistic, and the writing is solid. The characters don’t say cheesy one-liners, and there’s no over-the-top, unrealistic behavior. In this movie, people act like real people, which makes it very relatable and realistic. This is very important, since such things are critical if anyone is to take the movie seriously.

Another thing I love about this movie, is the atmosphere. The setting and music are perfect. I don’t want to spoil the movie by describing details. After all, I saw this movie without knowing a thing about it. Doing so made the experience even more gratifying, since I was able to be completely surprised by anything that would take place. I don’t want to rob anyone of potentially having that same experience.See all »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
Steven Evans, age 44 (USA)
Neutral—I find myself agreeing with Criswell’s review—he’s got it right. The only addition I could make is that this film is another attempt by Left Wing Hollywood to show there is no need for God. But THEIR god needs a machine—or machines in the case of the androids created in the film—whereas the One True God creates all on His own (no batteries needed).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Leonardo, age 72 (USA)
Neutral—An interesting relation I found between Ava and us is that we exist to glorify our Creator in everything, especially once we realize how complex and intelligent we really are, we must especially use such intelligence to recognize that we were created by an even greater Being and give Him the glory. Ava was indeed an incredible creation, who was able to learn and reason amazingly, however her great intelligence fooled her into becoming independent from her creator, thus leading her to turn her back to him, believing she could make it on her own. That’s exactly what we did/do.

Most of us think we are too smart to need or even believe in a creator, so we turn our back to Him believing we are 100% autonomous. Ava’s life will unavoidably come to an eternal end for shading the blood of her mortal creator. We’ll also come to an eternal end for turning our back to our Creator, however through the blood that was shad by His son and his resurrection, we have an opportunity to reconnect with our Creator and have everlasting life.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
Wesley, age 46 (Brazil)
Negative—It’s beyond me, how any Christian would rate this movie as “positive.” It is loaded with profanities and nudity. Besides the Christian perspective on morals, the plot of the movie is predictable, environment and both human characters are unbelievable, and not enough food for though is given about the concept of AI, so on the intellectual level the movie is virtually empty.

Only special effects are great (it looks like 90% of the budget was spent on it). At the end, we are left with no sympathy towards anybody or anything, and with nothing to speculate about Ava’s future; she’ll probably forever stand on the crosswalk like a mental patient.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Vladislav Valentinov, age 38 (USA)
Movie Critics
…a creation story, except instead of God repurposing a rib, the story here involves a Supreme Being who has built an A.I., using a fortune he’s made from a search engine called Blue Book…
Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
…Eerie …slow… A melange of cerebral Stanley Kubrick-style sci-fi and adolescent fantasy about sexy robot chicks, “Ex Machina” offers plenty of intriguing style but a spotty story line. … [2½/4]
Kyle Smith, New York Post
…Smart sci-fi …although “Ex Machina” is small and talky—it has just four characters, and the only action comes at the end—it also looks good. The set direction is interesting and evocative. The effects impress but don't overwhelm. …
Stephen Whitty, The Star-Ledger (New Jersey)
…feels a bit like a decent short story bulked out to movie length, but it’s done with confidence …an elegant but limited artificial intelligence thriller… [3/5]
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (UK)
…Unnerving consideration of artificial intelligence …Shrewdly imagined and persuasively made… Vikander is trained as a ballerina, so she's capable of unsettlingly precise movements that convincingly position her as a combination of human and machine. …
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
…well played… Stylish, elegant, tense, cerebral, satirical and creepy…
Dan Jolin, Empire [UK]
Comments from non-viewers
Neutral—I have not seen this movie, and, based on the review, I will skip it. However, another movie in a similar vein is “The Machine” (2013). It is not in theaters, but is on Netflix. It was a very interesting movie. It is R, and, while I cannot recall all objectionable content, I don’t recall it being as sexual as the movie reviewed above. In addition, the AI character is a character you actually feel empathy for.
Andrea, age 42 (USA)
Negative—I would venture to guess a young man who gives a positive review of this movie, that distorts proper sexual relationships as outlined in the Bible, is likely struggling with his own sexual perversions. I would recommend to such a young man to read the book of Romans. I wouldn't say this just to offend but to sincerely hope that such a young man would turn from such sin and turn to our Lord, Savior, and Master, the Messiah Christ Jesus for forgiveness and go and sin no more. I have no intention of ever seeing this movie, neither should you.
Adam, age 43 (USA)

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