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film review

Alicia Vikander stars as Ava, a robot with a high-power calculator for a brain.

In Her, Joaquin Phoenix's character fell in love with his smartphone, so it's not entirely incredible that Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), the protagonist of Alex Garland's Ex Machina, should tumble so quickly for Ava (Alicia Vikander), a robot with most of the popular female body parts and a high-power calculator for a brain.

Caleb arrives for a week at the modernist fortress of creepy Internet tycoon Nathan Bateman (Inside Llewyn Davis's Oscar Isaac), where his job is to get as close as he wants to Bateman's pet creation and determine if she has a conscience.

Both cerebral – there are allusions to Wittgenstein and philosophy puzzles – and B-movie-formulaic enough to include shapely fembots and daring escapes, Ex Machina is a clever film with one indelible performance from Isaac. With a shaved head, bushy beard and corded arm muscles, Nathan comes on like a hyper-articulate baboon with the sort of corrosive personality that proves the dangers of staying inside too long and playing with your dolls.