For Part 3 of my 4-part series of guest reviews written by students at Vashon Island High School, I present a review of Ex Machina written by Emmaline Wittwer.

When I look back at the film reviews I wrote in high school, they weren’t nearly as well-composed as these. I wish I could fast forward and see what these young adults are writing five years from now. (In case you missed it: Thanks to English teacher Steven Denlinger, I was a guest teacher for three days in journalism and science fiction classes, and we focused on the art of writing film reviews. It’s an honor to share some of the best reviews that came out of our short time together.)

Alex Garland’s Ex Machina is eye-opening for its relevance to the growing technology of today’s world. The movie is also a glowing example of true science fiction that actually focuses on the science and less on the exciting action that most science fiction movies such as District 9 rely on.

Ex Machina stars Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb, the giddy computer coder working for Blue Book (a futuristic version of today’s Google), who is chosen to visit the research place of the company’s CEO (Oscar Isaac). From the beginning of Caleb’s trip out to the research facility on a remote estate, there is a feeling of something being a little bit off. The helicopter that flew Caleb to the estate dropped him off about a mile from the house because the pilot said that he wasn’t allowed any closer to the building. This is the first scene that gives the audience a feeling of the mysteriousness about Nathan, Blue Book’s CEO.

Caleb meets Nathan and finds that he is a very fit, casual guy who loves to drink. Nathan asks Caleb to sign a paper saying that he’ll never tell anyone about what he sees at the research facility. Once Caleb reluctantly signed the paper, he finds that he has become the administrator of a Turing test on a female-looking robot (Alicia Vikander) that Nathan created.

Ava, the robot, is remarkably human-like to the point where it is hard to believe that she is a robot, except for the wires running through her abdomen. She is likeable, and easily grows on both Caleb and the audience. Throughout the movie, Caleb struggles to understand his feelings for Ava while also staying loyal to Nathan. The pressure that Ava puts on Caleb to help her escape builds and builds until a plot twisting end leaves the audience questioning everything that Ava ever said.

The cinematography of the movie was incredible, with breathtaking views of the natural area around Nathan’s house. The house itself was very modern and shot in a way that speaks to the coldness and mysteriousness of the story. It would have been enjoyable to have more characters in the movie, because around the middle of the movie it got a little mind-numbing to only really watch Nathan, Caleb and Ava. Although, there was an interesting servant (Sonoya Mizuno) who worked for Nathan. The actors performed well in their roles, especially Isaac as he played Nathan. His character was very unique and required a quirky type of acting. Vikander played the mechanic motion of the robot well and still has me wondering how the wires on her body looked so real.

This movie is good for the watcher who enjoys a quality science fiction movie without all of the gun shooting, war fighting machines. It gives a reasonable explanation for a way in which a thinking and aware robot can be built that is believable. The movie correlates to the recent advances in technology, such as the robot that was made in Japan that can think and learn from it’s past experiences. While Japan’s robot is nowhere near the same level as Ava, they are getting closer every year. The end of the movie seems to pose the relevant question of today: “Should we use technology to create thinking robots?”, and the audience is left to answer that question on their own.

Emmaline Wittwer is a senior at Vashon Island High School. She loves school and wants to work in the medical field later in life.