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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Ex Machina

July 13th, 2015

Ex Machina - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
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Ex Machina

Ex Machina is a high-concept Sci-fi movie that I thought had a chance to do well in limited release. ... It earned just over $25 million in theaters and is currently one of the biggest limited release hits of the year. The fact that it found an audience is excellent. Did it deserve this success? And does the DVD / Blu-ray live up to its theatrical success?

The Movie

The first scene in the movie is without any dialogue. We simply see a man, Caleb Smith, working at his desk in a modern office. He gets a message telling him he won the office lottery and suddenly he is flooded with congratulations. When we next see him, he's in a helicopter flying over a glacier. He asks the pilot how long till they get to his estate and apparently, they've been flying over it for two hours. After he lands, it takes a while before Caleb meets whoever "he" is. There's no one to greet him at the landing and only what appears to be an automated voice at the front door. He does finally meet Nathan Bateman, his boss and CEO of Blue Book.

Nathan shows Caleb around but quickly gets to business. Caleb isn't there as part of some employer motivational attempt, but he's there as part of a testing phase for what Nathan as been working on. First, Caleb has to sign a non disclosure agreement. As soon as he signs the agreement, Nathan asks him if he knows what the Turing Test is.

Before we go back to the movie, I want to talk about the Turing Test and a "successful" test that happened last year at the University of Reading. A Chatbot was able to convince one third of the judges that it was a real person and since the Turing Test only requires a 30% success rate, some have hailed this as the first computer A.I. to successfully pass the Turing Test. However, there is a huge caveat here. The chatbot that passed was designed to mimic a 13-year old boy who isn't a native English speaker. So really the test didn't show that the computer A.I. was truly thinking, but that the average 13-year old boy isn't fully intelligent anymore. Anyone who has been on the Internet lately could have told you that. ... Moving on ...

Nathan wants Caleb to be the human component of a Turing Test. However, the test isn't exactly as he envisioned. He's not going to be typing on a computer... he's going to be talking to Ava, a humanoid robot. They have a short conversation and Caleb is blown away. Nathan is obviously a genius, but his ego might outstrip his considerable IQ. When Caleb mentions that there is a flaw in the Turing Test. It's clear that Ava is a machine and that fact is supposed to be hidden from the judge; however, Nathan wants Caleb to know Ava is a machine and to see if she still passes. Does Caleb think Ava has a consciousness. Caleb is very interested in the how of Ava's creation... but those details enter into spoiler territory.

Ex Machina works amazingly well both as a science fiction film and as a tight thriller. I'm not surprised it earned 91% positive reviews. The film is the directorial debut for Alex Garland, who has written a number of screenplays in the past. According to the Tomatometer Score, this is his best film to date. It is hard to argue with that. The science behind the science fiction elements are very interesting dealing with A.I. topics like A.I. rights. (At one point, Caleb tells Nathan that keeping Ava isolated is abuse.) The movie also has assets that extend beyond the Sci-fi realm. The thriller portion of the plot is very well scripted and the performances by the two main leads, Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander, are outstanding. It all adds up to a movie with a high replay value.

The Extras

The first extra is a making of featurette, a 40-minute long making of featurette. It deals with the making of the movie, but also the more philosophical aspects of the film. Up next is a massive hour-long Q&A session that took place at the South by Southwest film festival earilier this year. Finally, there are a number of shorter behind-the-scenes featurettes with a total running time of nearly 30 minutes. That's an impressive amount of extras on the DVD and Blu-ray.

The technical presentation is good, especially compared to its budget. The level of details is high and the colors are strong and the film's stylish look really comes across. Some of the darker scenes have issues with details being swallowed by shadows, but not so much that it negatively affects the overall film quality. The audio boasts a 7.1 surround sound track that includes DTS X ... which I can't use. I really don't want to upgrade, as this is apparently the first Blu-ray to include DTS X, so it is not worth it just yet. That said, the DTS-HD Master Audio was amazing. There's plenty of activity in the surround sound speakers, including dynamic effects that are very immersive.

The Blu-ray costs just $17, which is just $2 or 13% more than the DVD. It is easily worth the upgrade.

The Verdict

Ex Machina is one of the best movies I've reviewed this year and it combines fascinating Sci-fi with a tight thriller, resulting in a movie that is absolutely worth seeing. The DVD or Blu-ray have more than two hours of extras adding enough replay value to make it a Pick of the Week contender.

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Filed under: Video Review, Ex Machina, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Alex Garland, Alicia Vikander