Ex Machina Blu-ray review
Early on, Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson, who portrayed Bill Weasley in HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS) is informed he was won first prize in a contest he has desperately wanted to win. He sends a mass text and is met with surprise and friendly jealousy. Coworkers gather around to offer applause.
He’s dropped off by a helicopter in a field and told to follow the river to the location he needs to be. He arrives at a small building, is issued an ID card by a computer and enters. It’s there that he meets Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR; he will appear alongside Gleeson in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS), the CEO of Blue Book, a company that has made Nathan extremely wealthy. And with that wealth, Nathan has built an AI.
Nathan knows Caleb is freaked out by the situation and so tries to make him as comfortable as possible. He shows him how to work his keycard (which has limited access), takes him to his room (which has no windows) and lays out the contract that he must agree to before taking on the assignment. After, Nathan asks Caleb if he knows what the Turing test is, to which he responds, “It’s when a human interacts with a computer. And if the human doesn’t know they’re interacting with a computer, the test is passed.”
With that, Caleb is introduced to Ava (Alicia Vikander, TESTAMENT OF YOUTH; slated is Guy Ritchie’s THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.), an AI whose sex appeal cannot be lost. She speaks like a human and looks like a human. She understands slang and can hold conversations. But he feels there must be more. And more there is, although she warns it may not come from her.
Just as Caleb is curious is to learn about Ava and the world he involves himself with, the viewer is curious to see just where debut director Alex Garland (previous writing credits include 28 DAYS LATER and SUNSHINE for Danny Boyle; additionally, his 1996 novel, The Beach, would be adapted by Boyle in 2000) will take it all. Movies about artificial intelligence have been around for decades, and so it would take quite a film to stand out.
EX MACHINA is indeed the sort of film that challenges. Even though many of the ideas have been crossed before (there is the AI that has human emotions that seem to break ground in the field, in addition to a mad scientist element at work), Garland and company approach them in a way that feels fresh and more intelligent than they’ve been in years. That the small cast is so onboard (Vikander especially gives a convincing and, yes, human performance) elevates EX MACHINA.
EX MACHINA is one of the welcome sci-fi films that relies little on special effects or the sound department to keep the viewer alert. Instead, it has thoughts that are welcome to be explored, and in exploring them, the film is at times frightening and, perhaps, prophetic.
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. EX MACHINA looks quite sharp in high-definition and boasts excellent details, accurate colors and an overall nice image that is pleasing to the eye.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; English 5.1 DTS Surround Sound. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The audio is also strong and features clean dialogue and a crisp Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury score.
Through the Looking Glass: Creating EX MACHINA (39:59): This excellent five-part featurette uses interviews, on-set footage and clips to offer an in-depth look at the creation, plot, themes, effects and much more of EX MACHINA.
SXSW Q&A with Cast and Crew (1:00:57): This lengthy panel interview, conducted at the 2015 South by Southwest festival, features director Alex Garland, actor Oscar Isaac, cinematographer Rob Hardy and composers Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury.
Behind the Scenes Vignettes (28:40): There are nine here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Making Ava, “”Nathan’s World,” “New Consciousness,” “Becoming Ava,” “Director,” “Cast,” “Meet Ava,” “God Complex” and “Music.”