Alex Garland's work has always been informed by cinema, his breakthrough novel The Beach was stuffed with pop cultural references and a huge debt to Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. Similarly, when he emerged as one of the UK's finest screenwriters it was with a respectful nod to George Romero and - again - Coppola's Vietnam epic, with Garland's 28 Days Later, directed by Danny Boyle.

That influence - itself based upon Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness - can be felt again in Ex Machina, though our mysterious Kurtz-like figure takes our protagonist into his fold almost immediately. Here it's computer programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), having won a staff lottery, getting to spend a week in the presence of his employer Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a genius software developer and inventor.

Caleb only finds out the true purpose of his visit once he's signed an air-tight and daunting non-disclosure agreement, spurred on by Nathan's imposing yet - strangely - charming demeanour. The powerplay between the two men exists from the off, and every time Nathan encourages Caleb to just treat him like a friend you can see him prodding and provoking the awestruck, nervy Caleb further.

Nathan has been developing an A.I., and he wants Caleb to see if it passes the Turing test; evaluating the human qualities of his creation. This takes place over a series of conversations, in which Caleb is initially dumbfounded and gradually seduced by Ava (Alicia Vikander) - an automaton, partially covered in synthetic skin, but largely see-through, her circuitry on display. This design immediately lends Ava a certain vulnerability, coupled with Vikander's nuanced performance, it is a marvellous and captivating creation.

Whilst the tension between our main players is consistent it's only because we know that something is going to go wrong, or someone is going to snap. It's not entirely because we care about our characters unfortunately, and as secrets are revealed and the balance of power shifts back and forth towards the film's conclusion the film's mechanics  become predictable and dull. With certain plot points feeling more like inevitabilities than startling revelations or actions.

However, the film benefits from an assured execution - this marks Garland's debut as a director - and there's an elegance to the film that is similar to Jonathan Glazer's work.

Though, surprisingly, it's when it comes to provoking thought that the film is strangely lacking. Primarily a conversation piece, the main source of debate comes from the puffed-chest of Nathan butting against the flacid ponderances of Caleb, and Caleb's interactions with Ava are merely flirtations. Whilst this is fundamental to the film's narrative, it could have benefited from a little more depth and the key message of the film - whilst a solid idea - is a tad too blunt and doesn't leave the audience with much more than a nod in agreement.

A solid debut, and an engaging watch thanks to confident direction, a spine-tingling score, impressive and subtle effects work and a good cast, but nothing that will linger long in the brain afterwards.