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Ex Machina - Movie Review


5 stars

Alex Garland’s directorial debut, Ex Machina, is, as far as I’m concerned, the first must-see film of 2015. More human than human indeed. This is breathtaking art that is meticulously assembled to build something unforgettable. Smart, explosive, and – dare I suggest – fun, the film dares to bridge the gap between what it means to be human and android and does so with gusto. The science-minded thriller dares to explore what could actually be happening right here, right now and does so with a cutting-edge chill to the b-movie mixed drink it offers modern audiences.

Billionaire Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), a kale-eating, muscle-building alcoholic recluse (who makes Tony Stark look like as harmless as Mickey Mouse), opens the door to his super-cool getaway to genius Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), the 26-year-old winner of Bateman’s company weeklong company contest. Nathan doesn’t walk around his “cabin”; he struts. He also has a fair amount of closely guarded secrets and - in the Google age of inauthenticity - that can be a really dangerous thing.

His new project, a curvaceous robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander), is the reason Caleb has been “selected” to stay for the week. He is tasked to converse with Ava and see if she passes the Turing muster. Can she, in fact, pose as a human? That’s right, Nathan has just became God and he knows it. Caleb, not Ava, is his real experiment. While there is a silent servant (Sonoya Mizuno) in the cabin, the film hinges on merely a trinity of personalities coming together; two that are intelligent and one cobbled together from cellphone hacks.

Controlled cinematic chaos ensues as Caleb “warms” to the idea of Ava as a sentient being wrapped in soft polymer skin. While she moves with a posture that suggests she’s too perfect and too privileged to be anything but machine, she’s also talking in a manner that suggests real thoughts and legitimate feelings. She’s graceful, girlish with her fashions, and pretty damn sexy. How could she not be human? Behind the camera, Garland dares us to “dream the dream” alongside him as he hypnotizes audiences in a manner that keeps you guessing from one frame to the next.  

And, yet, what happens if Caleb is not impressed by her answers? We know the answer and yet…come to expect something else…until motivations are made clear. The dark questions Garland, who also wrote the story and the screenplay, dares to ask and present as Caleb interviews Ava through a clear Plexiglas window in Ex Machina are engaging and downright disturbing. The answers are even more so.

This is a film where the grand ideas in it could have easily sunken it. They don’t though and that’s what great about what Garland presents. The picture toys with our emotions and our senses while teasing out brain with its three-handed structure. There is also some supple robot nudity, some unexpected disco dancing, and some discussions on abstract art along the way to keep our fine mental specimens engaged.

Few mental chess games are this intoxicating.


[tab title="Film Details"]

Ex Machina - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for graphic nudity, language, sexual references and some violence
108 mins
: Alex Garland
Alex Garland
Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac
: Drama | Sci-fi
What happens to me if I fail your test?
Memorable Movie Quote: "Isn't it strange, to create something that hates you?"
Universal Pictures
Official Site: http://exmachina-movie.com/
Release Date:
April 25, 2015
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
July 14, 2015.
Synopsis:Caleb smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer at an internet-search giant, wins a competition to spend a week at the private mountain estate of the company's brilliant and reclusive ceo, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac).

Upon his arrival, Caleb learns that Nathan has chosen him to be the human component in a turing test-charging him with evaluating the capabilities, and ultimately the consciousness, of Nathan's latest experiment in artificial intelligence.


[tab title="Blu-ray Review"]

Ex Machina - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - July 14, 2015
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English, English SDH, Spanish
English: DTS:X; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); English: DTS 5.1; English: DTS Headphone:X
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); Digital copy
Region Encoding: Locked to RegionA

Shot digitally with a variety of cameras, Ex Machina is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1 for its premiere release. This is a classy-looking production that crystalizes the experience of watching it at home with a detail-driven lens. Black levels are exquisite. Contrasts are good, too. Some of the exterior shots – there aren't a lot, mind you – could be more crisp but everything within the bunker is riddled with texture. From Ava's torso to the imperfections in Nathan's face. Equally charged is the roaringly strong DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 which most receivers will default to. I say default because DTS is premiering their new super-sized sonics (DTS X) with this release. I'm sure it is excellent but my receiver couldn't play it so it switched to 7.1.



  • None

Special Features:

While there isn't a commentary, the supplemental material – especially the making-of featurette – covers that territory effectively. Featuring interviews with cast and crew, the excellent 40-minute featurette goes deep with its philosophy and technical aspects on the making and writing of the movie. There is also an hour-long panel with Alex Garland, Oscar Isaac, Rob Hardy, Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury recorded at SXSW that is included here. Behind the Scenes vignettes round out the collection.

  • Through the Looking Glass: Making Ex Machina (40 min)
  • SXSW Q&A with Cast and Crew (60 min)
  • Behind the Scenes Vignettes (29 min)


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