Ex Machina posits that A.I. is most convincing when you can see that it is a machine and yet it still registers as human consciousness. This is also the formula of a certain strain of great magic: the magician explains the trick to the audience, but the illusion still stands. Accordingly, Ex Machina is interested in magic, what with the main characters thoroughly expositing their ruses. But who will prove to be the master of misdirection: A.I. impresario Nathan, his employee/mark Caleb, or shiny new robot Ava? The twists are predictable, but the exploration upon getting to them is deeply fascinating.

Oscar Isaac has given the best performance of the year so far, and not just because of this: