This is a very engrossing film about the always-fascinating topic of artificial intelligence. There was not a moment when I was not totally absorbed in the story. It is hard to describe without giving too much away so I will just stick to what is shown in the trailer and already discussed extensively in the media.
The basic story is that of a genius inventor Nathan, who at age 13 created an internet search engine software that now accounts for 94% of all searches. He has used his resulting vast wealth to purchase an enormous estate on which he has built a highly secluded research laboratory far from prying eyes and has used the vast trove of information gained by his search engine to gain insight into how people think and used that to create artificial intelligence that is embedded in a female humanoid shape named Ava.
Nathan has selected Caleb, a young coder in his company, to spend a week at his research retreat to interact with Ava in some kind of Turing test. Except that in the original Turing test, the tester does not actually see the entity that they are communicating with and has to try and infer whether they are interacting with a human or a machine. In this case, Caleb knows that Ava is a machine because parts of her are translucent and he can see her wiring. So the test seems to be some kind of super-Turing test, where even if you know that you are dealing with a machine, whether the machine is sophisticated enough that you start to care about it as if it were a human and, conversely, whether the machine has a sense of mind that it can use to trigger a desired reaction from you.
This does not quite rise to the level of what is called superintelligence, artificial intelligence that surpasses that of the most gifted human minds and whose creation is feared by some as the day that computers will take over the world since such machines will then be able to design their own machines in an ever-increasing spiral of advances that humans will be unable to match.
The film is engrossing enough that I was willing to overlook some of the nitpicking plot problems. One thing that bothered me is the whole idea of the genius who works entirely alone, something that is pretty much impossible with any advanced science and technology. Nathan not only is a software genius, he seems to have built by himself working at his remote research facility all the hardware for Ava too. Nathan has an assistant but only to do his cooking and cleaning. Furthermore if his estate is so vast and remote that you seemingly only get there by a two-hour helicopter ride, how does he get his food and other supplies? Furthermore, although his retreat is a super-high tech place, he still uses old-fashioned key cards like those used in hotels to determine access to various rooms. And what happens when there is, as there inevitably will be, a problem with the complex technology that is necessary to run such a vast place without humans? Does he repair it himself?
But one should not spend too much time on such concerns. Instead one should suspend disbelief and view these glosses as necessary elements to keep the story lean and spare, which it undoubtedly is. One good thing about the film is that the actors are not well-known and immediately recognizable figures. To me, this always adds a level of verisimilitude to futuristic films. The film would have been less compelling is it had starred (say) Ryan Gosling, Scarlett Johansson, and Brad Pitt in the key roles.