Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. United Kingdom, 2015. Universal Pictures International, Film4, DNA Films. Screenplay by Alex Garland. Cinematography by Rob Hardy. Produced by Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich. Music by Geoff Barrow, Ben Salisbury. Production Design by Mark Digby. Costume Design by Sammy Sheldon. Film Editing by Mark Day. Academy Awards 2015. Golden Globe Awards 2015.
Ace computer coder Domhnall Gleeson is thrilled when he wins a contest to spend a week with the zillionaire owner of his Google-esque internet search engine company, during which he will get to glimpse the boss in action and maybe work with him on a project. When he arrives at the remote compound, which looks like it’s located somewhere between Jurassic Park and Iceland, he encounters a tensely suspicious loner (Oscar Isaac, as quietly menacing as ever) who reveals to him his latest brainchild: a fully formed artificial intelligence in the form of a beautiful young woman. Isaac asks Gleeson to spend the week interacting with his creation in order to see if she passes the test of being believably lifelike: does she experience emotions or merely do a good job of imitating them? In getting to know this impressive, lifelike being (played with perfect delicacy by Alicia Vikander), Gleeson is struck more by how much emotion she inspires than she displays. The idea that human reality relies more on our perception than what is actually there is a fascinating one, but it doesn’t get a very fleshed-out treatment in this film despite gorgeous production design, music score and cinematography, plus good actors and intelligent dialogue. The whole thing revolves around a flat character who falls in love with a robot within seconds of meeting her, creating stakes that are never comprehensible amid story twists that are too easy to see coming. Themes of the male need for control over female bodies is also touched on, but the film begs so hard to be meaningful that it’s a little bit embarrassing even if it is also extremely watchable and entertaining.