Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ex Machina 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
After winning a competition to spend a week at the mountain estate of his company’s brilliant CEO (Oscar Isaac), programmer Caleb (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 android (Alicia Vikander) — and is plunged into an A.I. experiment beyond his wildest dreams in this epic thriller charged with heart-stopping suspense.

Film (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Ex Machina is one of the best science fiction movies I've seen in a long time that delves in a relatable future that shows us that no matter how far advanced we may become, our baser instincts will still be a part of us. As a society we are constantly pushing and advancing our scientific understanding as we also keep improving our technology whether it's a new PC or the latest iPhone, but the same can't be said for the underlying issues that we collectively face such as racism, sexism, the lack of privacy, and gender and pay inequality. Like all good science fiction, those issues have been incorporated into a sci-fi setting to address them in an entertaining way.

The films starts with a young programmer named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) who wins a big contest at his work. The golden ticket he won is to spend time with his company's boss Nathan (Oscar Isaac) who's a modern day genius. Caleb is whisked off to a remote wilderness location by helicopter to join his mysterious employer whose ultra secure house seems almost like a prison. While Nathan is gregarious in person, he's also undeniably odd and the more Caleb hangs around him the more unsettled he gets.

Nathan announces (after making Caleb sign a non-disclosure act) that he's brought Caleb to his house to be part of a history making experiment. Nathan has built a android that looks female called Ava Alicia Vikander) and he wants Caleb to question her to see if she qualifies as sentient or not. Trapped behind a glass wall, Ava intrigues Caleb and their rapport begins to trigger some feelings of protectiveness and sympathy for her. During some momentary power outages that shut down the surveillance cameras that are being watched Nathan, Ava warns Caleb not to trust Nathan which kicks the movie into high gear.

The movie serves as a fine allegory about the effect of how some men treat women whether through overt control or alternatively through more subtle methods such as being a good guy on the surface as long as the woman plays her part by being docile or pleasing to the man. With Ava trapped in a glass room and knowing that her "life" is depended on whether or not she passes the test devised by Nathan and administered by Caleb, it's a perfect metaphor for many women. I don['t want to get into spoiler territory for the film, but I'm sure that the ending will shock a lot of people, but the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. The entire cast of this movie is exceptional, especially Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander who bring so much to their roles. Like all good sci-fi tales, this one will stay in your thoughts long after it's over.  
Video (5 out of 5 stars)
I've been reviewing a lot of Lionsgate 4K releases lately and this 2160p (2.40:1) transfer is the best of the bunch. This 4K UHD is also a lot better than the included 1080p transfer on Blu-ray as the colors are more vivid and the level of detail is far greater. The black levels are also more solid on the 4K edition which is really noticeable on low level scenes such as the dancing scene in the movie. This is an excellent transfer and if you don't already own this movie I'd recommend buying the 4K set.
Audio (5 out of 5 stars)
Ex Machina's DTS-X mix is quite good even though this is one of those movies that is primarily dialogue driven. There are some scenes where the mix ratchets up such as the dance scene or when the helicopter delivers Caleb to the house. The dialogue is extremely clear and clean and the score is blended well with the rest of the mix. 
Extras (4 out of 5 stars)
In a move that I don't understand, all of the extras that were released on Blu-ray have not been ported over to this 4K itself. Instead, they can still be found on the Blu-ray that's thankfully still a part of this set. The other two Lionsgate releases that I'm reviewing ported them over so I'm not sure why it didn't happen with this release. They are all in high definition.
  • Through the Looking Glass: Making Ex Machina - This is a forty minute look into the making of the film with a lot of interviews that go into the underlying themes in the movie. 
  • SXSW Q&A with Cast and Crew - At a little over an hour long, this is a really in depth discussion about the film that was filmed at the SXSW festival featuring director Alex Garland, Oscar Isaac, and more.  
  • Behind the Scenes:
    • Making Ava
    • Nathan's World
    • New Consciousness
    • Becoming Ava
    • Director
    • Cast
    • Meet Ava
    • God Complex
    • Music
Summary (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Ex Machina is a great film that will leave you a lot to think about when it's over. The cast is fantastic and the dance scene in the movie is worth buying this alone. This 4K UHD offers exceptional video and audio quality and some really in depth extras that definitely fall into the quality over quantity category. This set is highly recommended! 

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