'Ex Machina' is the directing debut of writer Alex Garland, who burst onto the cinematic scene in 2000 with Danny Boyle's adaptation of his novel 'The Beach'. Since then, he has explored sci-fi themes in screenplays for '28 Days Later', 'Sunshine', 'Never Let Me Go' and 'Dredd'. But 'Ex Machina' is a completely new approach for him.

'Ex_Machina' comes from writer/director Alex Garland
'Ex_Machina' comes from writer/director Alex Garland

The film is set, he says, "10 minutes into the future", exploring technology that is possible but doesn't quite exist yet. With just three characters, it's a contained exploration of artificial intelligence, a subtle story that features one of Garland's trademark genre twists, but never boils over into his usual riotous mayhem.

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Garland credits this focus to a sense of what he wanted to accomplish with the film. While most of his projects have felt compromised in one way or another, "in this instance I had a really clear goal," he said. "I had the right people around me, and the right script."

More: Read the review for 'Ex Machina'

Of course, AI is a hot topic right now, especially with Stephen Hawking's recent comments that one day humans will be replaced by intelligent robots. "Any thought about AI very quickly becomes a thought process about us humans," Garland said, "about consciousness and where the mind is and what the mind is." But he thinks anxiety about AI is unhelpful. "I don't see anything problematic in creating a machine with a consciousness," he said, "and I don't know why you would want to stop it existing. I think the right thing to do would be to assist it existing. So whereas most AI movies come from a position of fear, this one comes from a position of hope and admiration."

Watch the trailer for 'Ex Machina' here:

By taking such a fresh, thoughtful approach and refusing to avoid controversy, Garland has made his most engaging and provocative film yet.