Garland’s smartest move in the whole film is to have Caleb start wondering whether he, too, is an A.I., and whether Nathan is just getting his jollies pitting his creations against each other. The sequence where Caleb examines himself, closely and aggressively, for joins and signs of any mechanism underneath his skin—to the point of cutting himself open, looking for wires—is some fine body horror.
That development also speaks to a smart awareness of what the audience might be thinking as they look for twists that might complicate the plot. But part of the film’s secret is that it doesn’t complicate the plot, which winds up feeling too simplistic and naked. Everyone is as they appear to be, and everyone follows their expected roles: Caleb falls for Ava and helps free her. She kills Nathan, who’s a sociopathic perv, more Dr. Moreau with a village full of abandoned projects than Dr. Frankenstein with a single stalker of his own design. Ava abandons Caleb and joins the outside world. The end. It’s all very well executed, but there’s a lack of daring in the story to match the daring of the filmmaking around it.