4K UHD Blu-ray Review: Ex Machina

An accomplished screenwriter with credits like 28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go, and Dredd, Alex Garland made his directorial debut with Ex Machina, a science fiction film that imagines a rather scary future with artificial intelligence, and its interactions with human life. Written by Garland, Ex Machina follows a sometimes awkward, but gifted computer programmer named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), who works for a Google type company, and wins a week at a wilderness compound with the company’s CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Once there, Nathan tells Caleb he’s built the first artificial intelligence being, known as Ava (Alicia Vikander).

Essentially, Caleb has been chosen to give Ava a Turing test, to see if she exhibits the necessary intelligence, decision making skills, and personality to pass as human. Complicating matters (at least for Caleb), is that Ava has been built to look as beautiful as possible. Is she really showing interest in him because of her personality, or is she trying to manipulate him into freeing her? And, even if she is manipulating him, isn’t that in some way, human?

Within the boundaries of the compound, Garland has created a film that’s as much about the visuals as the story. As a viewer, it’s difficult not to feel a bit claustrophobic, and empathize with the characters. Brief glimpses of nature only increase the sense of isolation. Who can blame Ava if she’s willing to manipulate someone to get out of her present circumstances? After all, Caleb’s need to go outside gets stronger as time passes. Really, it’s a psychological chess game, because Caleb is giving Nathan a Turing test as much as he is Ava, and Nathan is doing much the same to Caleb. So, the question than becomes, what are their motivations?

Don’t expect any easy answers. Nathan has some very specific ideas about how he wants his human AI’s to be that raises some potentially troubling questions. All that said, Ex Machina was one of my favorite movies of 2015 because it is visually stunning, and delivers a powerful message at the same time. If you haven’t seen Ex Machina yet, take the time to do so.

Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, this 4K presentation represents only a small uptick in quality from the Blu-ray, likely because of the way the film was shot. Several types of cameras, including a GoPro, we’re used, meaning that clarity, and detail vary a bit throughout. Some shots are razor sharp, while others have a slight veneer. I’m going to assume that this was largely the filmmaker’s intent. Depth of field is excellent from start to finish. While black levels are above average, there not as deep, and inky as other titles available. There’s a couple of occasions where natural light skews the image slightly. The colors are natural, and lifelike. Dreary too, but one assumes that was the intent. Skin tones appear natural throughout. There’s no noise or artifacts to mar the proceedings.

The DTS:X immersive audio is excellent. It almost feels like the score ‘bobs and weaves’ like a boxer all over the soundfield to increase/decrease intensity levels. The LFE channel balances things out nicely. Surround sound reproduction is on point. You’re in a vacuum of sound, effects, and ambience make themselves known, particularly helicopters rustling overhead. Dialogue is clean, clear, and concise.

English SDH, English, and Spanish subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Through the Looking Glass: Creating Ex Machina (HD, 39:59) This informative five part featurette uses interviews, on-set footage, and a variety of clips to provide an in depth look at the creation, plot, characters, cast, production, and more.
  • SXSW Q&A with Cast and Crew (1:00:57) This 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 “”
  • Blu-ray of the film.
  • Digital HD/Ultraviolet.

Movie title: Ex Machina (2015)

Director(s): Alex Garland

Actor(s): Domhnall Gleeson Alicia Vikander , Sonoya Mizuno , Oscar Isaac, Corey Johnson , Claire Selby

  • Movie
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  • Extras
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