“After winning a competition to spend a week at the mountain estate of his company’s brilliant CEO (Oscar Isaac), programmer Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) arrives to discover he has been chosen to take part in a study of artificial intelligence. Sworn to secrecy and cut off from the outside world, Caleb meets his subject, a beguiling and seductive cyborg named Ava (Alicia Vikander) – and is plunged into an A.I. experiment beyond his wildest imaginings in this epic thriller charged with heart-stopping suspense.”
Caleb Smith is elated when he wins a lottery at work that will allow him to spend a week with the head of his company, Blue Book, a leading internet search and tech company. When he arrives on his secluded mountain estate and goes through numerous security check-points and safeguards, he finally meets his employer, Nathan, a young, eccentric and wildly egotistical genius who has brought him there for something very special. Nathan explains that he will be conducting a Turing test on his newly developed A.I., designed to test the ability of a computer to fool a human into thinking they are interacting with another human. If it passes, then he has truly created an artificial intelligence.
When Caleb meets Ava for the first time he is overwhelmed by the interaction and responses from her. During their sessions together, Ava’s responses grow increasingly inquisitive and personal, with Caleb willingly opening up to her. As she begins to seduce him, she tells him not to trust Nathan, who has been erratic and drunk most nights. Caleb starts to wonder if Nathan has told him the whole truth, or has other plans for him. When Nathan gets belligerently intoxicated one night, Caleb steals his keycard and discovers video of Nathan’s previous attempts at constructing an A.I., all of which went horribly wrong. Fearing for Ava’s safety, Caleb devises a plan to break her out and escape, but everything is not what it seems.
Ex Machina is a chilling science fiction story that has every possibility of becoming reality. While we probably won’t get the form of A.I. we are warned of in films like Terminator, in which machines want to exterminate the human race, it is rare to get such a film that explores other traits that we might bestow on machines. Deception and manipulation may seem foreign to a machine of today’s standards, but giving an A.I. that ability raises an enormous amount of ethical and philosophical questions, all which are stimulated in this film, making it one of the more unique science fiction stories in a long time.
One of the best traits of the film is how unnerving it is. While it is a simple story, taking place in a single location in an underground research facility, it has a very claustrophobic feel. There is also an air of mystery to the film in which you don’t know who to trust. These elements come to a head in a few key scenes in which the reality of one of the characters comes into question, and does something horrifying on screen in which most will have to look away for. The ending of the film will leave you with a hollow feeling in your stomach as the possibilities of what happens next race through your mind.
Ex Machina won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, so simply stating that they are excellent is an understatement. Alicia Vikander is transformed beautifully into a seamless looking machine with a mostly transparent body save for a human face. With simple locations and small sets, attention is paid entirely to the look of Ava, which is one of the most compelling factors of the film.
Also great in the film are the performances by actors. Domhnall Gleeson is incredible as portraying the innocent, smart young man who becomes enamored by Ava, and wants nothing more than to rescue her from imprisonment to live happily ever after with her. Oscar Isaac also gives an amazing performance as that egotistical drunkard who just happens to be one of the smartest people on the planet and isn’t afraid to let anyone know it. Throughout the film, it isn’t entirely obvious that he is deceiving Caleb, but his performance alone gives that impression so the film doesn’t have to spell it out for you. Alicia Vikander is definitely one of the shining parts of the film, giving an absolutely stellar performance as a machine curious about the world around her, who may be more than she seems.
Ex Machina is a poignant story that raises some great questions about the future of technology, while delivering an intense thriller that is very entertaining. Great science fiction films don’t need to be extravagantly wide in scope as long as they have an intelligent and powerful story.
The 4k version of the film is presented in 2160p Ultra High Definition Widescreen 2.40:1. The HDR provides brighter, deeper and more lifelike colors, which are clearly evident in this new transfer. The color balance is beautifully done, especially noticeable is Ava’s body and internal workings, which glow among some of the darker scenes.
For me, seeing science fiction films in 4k give already breathtaking visuals an entirely new level in which they can be appreciated. Ex Machina is no different. Although it is small in scope, the beauty of it shines very bright in this 4k release.
The Blu-Ray disc is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen 2.40:1.
The audio is presented in DTS:X. The balance on the track is done extremely well, with the majority of the sound coming through the center channel. Ex Machina has an extremely powerful track that helps deliver the thrilling suspense that adds to the enjoyment of the film. At times there will be subtle music coming through the surrounds, and then there will be times where it is almost deafening how unnerving it is. It’s a solid addition to the great visuals.
The Special Features are included on the Blu-Ray disc, and are going to be the same ones that were included in the original Blu-Ray release. These are:
- Through the Looking Glass: Creating Ex Machina 5-Part Featurette
- 8 Behind-the-Scenes Vignettes
- SXSW Q&A with Cast and Crew
With such an amazing accomplishment in story and visuals, these special features are definitely worth taking a look at.
Ex Machina blends together science fiction and a powerful suspense thriller to create something very unique to both genres. This 4k transfer of the film is beautifully done, and highlights the best qualities of the film.