Domhnall Gleeson says for him “Ex Machina” — a new sci-fi drama-thriller with only three main characters, one of them a possibly sentient robot (Alicia Vikander) — is a big movie for him. He prefers smaller films, especially ones, like this, that play like what he calls “elevated genre.” Still, he does have a bigger sci-fi movie on the horizon: along with his “Ex Machina” costar Oscar Isaac he’s in “Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens.” And though he can’t really talk about that one, he ca talk about not talking about it.
It’s strange how rare it is to get a sci-fi movie about ideas. Classically that’s been what the genre was for.
It’s about ideas, but I think almost more importantly it’s about characters. It’s about strong human beings, complicated human beings doing damage to each other. And then there’s something that may or may not be the equivalent of a human being, only it’s made out of metal instead of flesh and bones. I just like that everyone is more than a scratch-the-surface type of person.
Writer-director Alex Garland is good at that. Films he’s written, like “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine,” have sneakily complicated characters.
He paints them super-quickly, but they’re never just what you see initially. There’s always more there, which is sometimes unusual in genre films. I like elevated genre, and this fits nicely into that category. There’s a lot more going on than checking the boxes of the genre it’s in.
The character you play, a programmer flown to a remote lab to test the humanity of Vikander’s Ava, comes off like the nice guy. But he has a dark side even he doesn’t seem to realize.
Absolutely. He participates in the experiment. Once you accept the fact — which I think most people will, and he does — that she’s self-aware and sentient, then you know it’s not right to keep her in a room and test her. That’s not right. She’s actually more evolved than he is. And he continues to test her. I think he’s confused because he thinks he’s in love with her, and that may or may not be. But he wants to be needed by someone. He’s set up as a loner, somebody by himself. He wants to be needed, and he needs to be loved by somebody above all else. That’s what he gets from her, so he wants to feed that.