Ex Machina, Film 4, Tuesday, 11.15pm

Alex Garland’s 1996 novel The Beach was filmed by Danny Boyle in 2000 and he and Boyle then collaborated on two further films, 28 Days Later, a post-apocalyptic zombie romp, and Sunshine, a sci-fi drama. Garland then wrote the screenplays for Never Let Me Go, based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s dystopian novel, and Dredd, based on the much-loved 2000AD comic strip. All five films were produced by Trainspotting producer Andrew Macdonald, and the Scot backed Garland again for this, his 2014 debut feature. As you’d expect, it has a strong sci-fi flavour and dips into some big ideas involving artificial intelligence (AI) and what it means to be human. The special effects are pretty whizz-bang too, so much so that the film won the 2015 Oscar for Best Visual Effects.

Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson is Caleb, a talented computer coder at Blue Book, the world’s leading search engine and a company founded and run by the reclusive Nathan (Oscar Isaac). The film starts with Caleb “winning” a week at Nathan’s remote retreat, a luxurious high-tech lair worthy of a Bond baddie. Think Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Fallingwater House, only stuffed full of cameras and screens and overseen by an impassive Japanese housekeeper who looks like a catwalk model and makes excellent sushi.

Caleb travels there by private helicopter and on arrival he’s given a pass which will let him into some but not all rooms in the house. And he meets Nathan, working off his hangover on a punch bag, and is told why he’s really there: to take part in a ground-breaking experiment called the Turing Test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950 and designed to determine whether or not an AI can pass for human when interrogated. The AI in question is a prototype called Ava (Swedish ballet dancer-turned-actress Alicia Vikander), who Caleb talks to from behind a glass panel. As their conversations continues, Caleb becomes emotionally attached to her. When the cameras go down during one of the house’s frequent power-cuts Ava tells him not to trust Nathan, so Caleb begins to cook up an escape plan for the pair. The sense of dread that builds in the film’s closing third results in an explosive finale.

Superbly directed by Garland, and with powerful performances from the three leads, Ex Machina is an engrossing drama that asks probing questions about how we interact with each other, and how we’ll deal with the AI that does finally pass the Turing Test.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga, Netflix

Now streaming

It’s difficult to satirise something that doesn’t take itself at all seriously in the first place, though it’s a problem that either didn’t bother, or didn’t occur to, streaming giant Netflix when it commissioned this bonkers enterprise, a send up of the Eurovision Song Contest. Directed by David Dobkin, the man responsible for Wedding Crashers, it was co-written by Andrew Steele and Will Ferrell, who also stars alongside Canadian actress Rachel McAdam.

Ferrell is Lars Erickssong, a middle-aged musician whose dream is to one day enter the Eurovision Song Contest to represent Iceland. Along with BFF Sigrit Ericksdóttir he has a band called Fire Saga, the source of much amusement and derision in the pair’s home town of Húsavík. Lars’s silver fox father Erick (Pierce Brosnan, with a very weird accent) is particularly scornful. The set-up is as preposterous as everything else: Lars and Sigrit have had their Eurovision dream stoked by watching ABBA win the competition in 1974 (McAdam wasn’t even born then). In the end fate intervenes not once but twice, possibly with the help of the elves Sigrit leaves presents of whisky and cookies for, and the pair end up on the Icelandic ticket and heading for … Edinburgh, where that year’s contest is due to take place.

The capital looks stunning, as usual, and the film-makers take full advantage of the castle, the New Town, Victoria Street and Princes Street Gardens. There’s a great scene when Lars rounds on a bunch of American backpackers: “Go home and build your wall,” he shouts.

Over-cooked and over-long Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga is an absolute car crash of a movie – but, like Eurovision itself, a sort of guilty pleasure. And yes, Graham Norton does feature at one point.