HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Ex Machina
HTS Overall Score:84.5
“Ex Machina” baits audience with another tale of artificial intelligence and machinery, but in fact delivers us a fascinating look at humanity and what really makes us US. Taken from theories fleshed out from Isaac Asimov and Nick Bostram, “Ex Machina” is a cat and mouse thriller that deal with human emotions, manipulations and even betrayal. An A.I. built to be tested is soon to become the tester (or is she) for a brilliant computer engineer and his gentle lab rat of a beta tester. These theories have been discussed before as technology constantly evolves, and with our race coming closer and closer to having an intelligent machine in our midst, those questions arrive at a much faster pace, covering ethical, social and intelligence issues that really are deeply disturbing as well as incredibly exciting. The movie itself is one of the best robot movies I’ve seen in YEARS, and if it weren’t for some glossing over of deeper issues, would be nearly the perfect movie on the subject. Either way, the end result is simply fantastic and worthy of every bit of critical acclaim it has been given.
I was sick when “Ex Machina” came out in theaters, and I was REALLY disappointed in not being able to see it. Especially when all my cinemaphile friends came back raving about the movie. Three frustrating months later and I’m FINALLY able to see what all of the fuss is all about, and I can tell you that I was not disappointed in the least. Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a brilliant young coder who works at one of the biggest internet technology companies on the planet. His elusive and reclusive CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaacs) has selected him as the winner of a lottery prize package for the employees to come visit him at his luxurious underground estate out in the wilds. Upon arriving it becomes clear that this is not just a normal visit. An NDA form is required upon visiting and once that is out of the way Caleb declares the real reason. He has built an artificial intelligence down here in his lab and wants Caleb to run a Turing test on the machine. A Turing test is basically a test where the human interacts with the machine and decides whether or not it can pass for being human. A pass means Nathan has succeeded in his goal of creating the perfect A.I. and a pass means it’s time for him to do some more work.
Separated into different “sessions” with this A.I., cutely named Ava (Alicia Vikander), Caleb runs her through a series of questions and answers, trying to see how she reactors and/or trip her up. The test is by far a resounding success. Ava is so real, so competent of seeming emotions that soon the young coder is caught up in actually caring for her. Ava seems to return those feelings as well and even Nathan notices (who is watching everything on closed circuit cameras). As time passes the bond between Ava and Caleb is past that of a machine and human interaction, setting up a finale that is inevitable.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=49330[/img]I was absolutely fascinated by “Ex Machina” from beginning to end and it just goes to show that you don’t need a gazillion dollars thrown at the screen to become a great movie. The pace and plot itself are fairly simple, but also incredibly dense. Alex Garland (who both directed and wrote the film) has a tendency to being very verbose at times, followed up by long continuous shots that have almost no dialog whatsoever, but just follows items around the room as you soak in the little nuances. The basic premise isn’t going to blow you away. A man must test a machine and soon finds out that there is more to the machine than he ever imagined. The real trickery in “Ex Machina” is not know who the cat and who the mouse is in this little game. Is Nathan a heartless monster, a goody party boy who just is great at machine, or something in between? Is Caleb a sucker for Ava, or do they both truly care about each other? Is Ava manipulating the whole situation? Or is she actually desperate to spread her wings and fly, just an innocent bystander? Even though you know the general direction of the plot, the true motives and true ending are kept hidden from the viewer till the very end.
There are a few flaws in the story and resulting execution that really keep this from being a perfect robot movie. There are a few too many hints along the way, or at least too many OBVIOUS hints (in my opinion) for its own good. The introduction his Nathan’s mute housekeeper, Kyoko (Sonoyo Mizuno) is pretty obvious from the get go where her origins come from and Caleb seems to be a bit too dense on that seemingly blatant clue. The same goes for some of the character aspects of Nathan himself. He seems to be a brilliant “Mark Zuckerberg” type of philanthropist, but he’s a hard drinking party boy who gets hammered way too often to actually be the hard working inventor who must have spent thousands of sleepless nights (sober mind you) trying to get these A.I. functions just right. So when you compare his actions with the results, there is a slight disconnection. While it isn’t a negative flaw in the movie, I will say that there is some blatant nudity on the point of the android bodies. Given flesh they are fully human looking and that included all of the body parts that we as humans have. However, I must clarify that this one of two types of reasons nudity is shown. The first is to titillate the audience with sexually intensive scenes and the second to act as a plot device. This is the latter, as it acts as a foil to the inhumanity of the inner workings of the android. The naked flesh is the exact opposite of the cold metal and fibers making up Ava’s body. It’s warm, soft, human so to speak, creating the perfect blend of man and machine, so much so that we actually view her as BEING human at that point, no matter how much we know she’s not made of blood and bone underneath.
Rated R for nudity, language, sexual references and some violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=49338[/img]The 2.40:1 AVC encoded disc by Lionsgate was filmed with several different digital cameras, each with their own pros and cons for filming which created a little bit of an inconsistent picture. Let me state up front that this is in no way a displeasing picture, as the image looks really nice, but one that has a few inconsistencies that the viewer will notice. Detail and clarity look incredibly for many shots, but some, including the outdoor shots, look a tad bit hazy and soft. The scenes where you see the melting ice cap by the river looks incredible, while the scene just before that where they are drinking out on the hill has a bit of a softish and not perfectly focused look to it. The indoor detail looks quite good, with only some mild shadow detail to really be lost. The blacks themselves look quite good, but as I said, those shadows lost me a few times as I had to struggle to see some of the detail and there was some digital noise at times (e.g. right when Caleb goes to bed for the first time and looks straight at the camera as he tosses and turns). The image will please fans and certainly looks quite good, but just isn’t reference quality for those of you hoping that it would match the perfection of the audio track. Solid A- in my book.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=49346[/img]Well, Dolby has some serious competition in the object based advanced surround system that has previously had a control hold on. Atmos has been the latest and greatest in that regards, but DTS has finally released their first film with DTS:X, their own branded version of Atmos. The disc ALSO comes with DTS Headphone:X (basically the X track down mixed into a headphone channel using their custom virtualizer) as well as a 5.1 DTS (754kbps) theatrical track to enjoy. The X track has the same features as Atmos, where it has a core 7.1 DTS-HD MA track to listen to since there are no DTS:X receivers even on the market right now. That particular track is the one I will review here today and I can tell you right off the bat that it is well worth it. Surprising, but well worth it. I say surprising because “Ex Machina” is not exactly the track I expected DTS to debut their object based surround system on. It’s not an action movie, and it spends a lot of time underground in Nathan’s lab with nothing but dialog. So color me surprised when I was absolutely floored by the beauty of the track. The opening sequence with Caleb riding in on the helicopter was incredible, as I could tell every “texture” of the audio from the get go. Helo blades whipped above the head, allowing you to hear every pitch and pulse change in the blades, the whipping of the grass as the rotors pounded upon takeoff was eerily accurate and even the simple sounds like footsteps on the cement hallways or the popping noises as a bottle is opened sounded picture perfect. Dialog is clean and clear, locked up front and exquisitely balanced with the surround usage. They aren’t used every second of the film, but when they are used, those surround speakers light up with some incredibly nuanced noises. There are moments in the movie where the dynamic range is just off the charts, as pulsing and pounding synthesized beats push the intensity of what’s being shown on screen to nail biting levels, and those pulsing moments are really where the track shines. They aren’t every second, as I said, but they are INTENSE and incredibly visceral, showing off just how powerful the track can be.
• Through the Looking Glass: Making Ex Machina
• SXSW Q&A with Cast and Crew
• Behind the Scenes Vignettes
- Making Ava
- Nathan's World
- New Consciousness
- Meet Ava
- God Complex
While “Ex Machina” is not the PERFECT robot movie, it is easily the closest I have seen to the perfect one in my lifetime. The film portrays complex questions and thoughts in different ways, some are pseudo answered in the dialog, but the rest are answered in the actions of the people themselves, fleshing out the barebones structure that the verbal script sets up and completing the frame with the flesh of action. Simply mesmerizing from beginning to end I really have the desire to just pick up the disc again tomorrow and give it a spin again, I enjoyed it so much. The video is very solid for this release and being a DTS:X track, completely amazing in the audio department. With a very solid array of extras included in the package I see this as a no brainer for Science fiction fans. A definite watch at the very least.
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac
Directed by: Alex Garland
Written by: Alex Garland
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS:X, English DTS-HD MA 5.1, DTS-HD MA 7.1 (core of DTS:X track), DTS Headphone:X
Runtime: 108 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: July 14th 2015
Buy Ex Machina On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Must Watch
More about Mike