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Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Ex Machina (Blu-ray) (2015)

Ex Machina (Blu-ray) (2015)

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Released 10-Sep-2015

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Featurette-The Story
Featurette-The Cast
Featurette-The Design
Featurette-Creating Ava
Featurette-The Turing Test
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 108:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alex Garland
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Domhnall Gleeson
Oscar Isaac
Alicia Vikander
Sonoya Mizuno
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $24.95 Music Geoff Barrow
Ben Salisbury


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

††† Leave it to long-time science fiction screenwriter Alex Garland (Sunshine, Dredd) to create one of the most immersive, intelligent sci-fi offerings of the year for his first directorial endeavour. Ex Machina is a uniquely involving motion picture, deliberately-paced yet never dull, which plays out like a futuristic morality play concerned with manipulation, deception, reality, fantasy and humanity, not to mention it provides a powerful study of corruption and power. Although some aspects of Ex Machinaís script and narrative are predictable, this isnít a movie all about twists or reveals - rather, Garland shoots for a succession of subtle shifts which alter the mood and change character dynamics. This is a smartly-written and beautifully-assembled sci-fi, and even though the screenplay is not airtight, the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses.

††† Set at an indeterminate point in the future, Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) is a programmer working for the worldís most powerful search engine. He unexpectedly wins a special company prize, given the chance to spend a week with reclusive tech genius and corporate CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Straight away, Nathan demands for Caleb to treat their time together as friends, talking amicably and drinking beer together. Caleb is soon introduced to a top-secret project that Nathan has been working on: an advanced cyborg named Ava (Alicia Vikander). Signing a non-disclosure agreement, Caleb is invited to conduct the ďTuring TestĒ on Ava; that is, to see if she is truly aware and conscious. Over the week, Caleb and Ava converse about life, personal history and consciousness, but while Ava is synthetic, Caleb finds himself drawn to her. As the days go by, however, Caleb finds himself unsure of Nathanís endgame.

††† Bolstered by sublime dialogue and a taut narrative, Ex Machina is both a philosophical and an emotional journey, and it works on multiple levels - itís a futuristic cautionary tale with echoes of Frankenstein, an enthralling small-scale character drama, an unnerving adult thriller, and an intense art-house movie with the accessibility of a mainstream motion picture. An effective sense of unease lingers throughout, as Nathan monitors Caleb and Avaís conversations, with periodic power outages allowing rare moments of privacy in which Ava drip-feeds Caleb pieces of secretive information, winding him up tighter. Ex Machina concerns itself with themes of consciousness and what it means to be human, and, without giving too much away, Garlandís ultimate thesis on the fundamental essence of humanity is not exactly pretty. Garland deserves a lot of credit for the ending, as Ex Machina closes in an appropriate, thrilling fashion without feeling the need for explosive pandemonium. Itís the type of ending that lingers after the credits have expired.

††† Garland acquits himself admirably as a first-time director, with his superb screenplay serving as a solid foundation. Although Ex Machina may be a familiar tale, itís told in an original fashion, addressing the age-old question of artificial intelligence in a way befitting for this current age of Google and Apple. Garland has stated that the narrative takes place ďten minutes from now,Ē eschewing a specific time period or year, and not going overboard with futuristic technology. Itís a smart move from the filmmaker, ensuring that the production will never age. The movie also deserves plaudits for its technical credits; Garlandís direction is unfussy but effective, allowing the performances and the production design speak for themselves. The creation of Ava remains the most impressive achievement from a visual standpoint. She was created through a seamless mix of live-action and digital effects, and the illusion is unbroken and consistent. Also memorable is the pulsing score by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, which perfectly complements the slick visual scheme.

††† Dud performances could have torpedoed Ex Machina, but luckily Garland chose wisely for his three leads. Gleeson, who sports an American accent, breathes vivid life into his role, emerging as the typical everyman, and, by extension, our entry point into the narrative. Itís nuanced work from the British thespian, subtly conveying his emotions with understated dialogue delivery and cold looks. Meanwhile, as the enigmatic Ava, Vikander knocks it out of the park, which is no easy feat. Vikanderís performance is deliberate and riveting, coming across as wholly realistic and genuine, skillfully supplementing the ace visual effects. Rounding out the leads is Isaac, whoís equally valuable. Itís an interesting role, and Isaac runs with it; thereís a feeling of apprehension whenever heís on-screen, and itís difficult to figure out if he can be trusted.

††† Although sci-fi actioners like The Matrix or Paul Verhoevenís RoboCop are fun, Ex Machina is ultimately more rewarding, allowing us to dissect dialogue and draw our own conclusions about where this is all leading. It absolutely must be seen.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† Universal presents Ex Machina on Blu-ray in a 1080p, AVC-encoded high definition transfer, via a 2.40:1 aspect ratio (OAR was 2.39:1), and the results are a little mixed.

††† As to be expected from a newly-minted digital presentation, there are no bothersome artefacts or issues to report; my eyes didnít detect any banding, aliasing or black crush. But whether itís the fault of the source or the transfer, the video looks a bit gauzy, soft and muddy most of the time, with very average fine detail. It looks as if a layer of grain or noise should be present, but was scrubbed away through digital noise reduction (Universal are notorious for their DNR). I did not view the movie theatrically, though, so perhaps this is how the movie was designed to look.

††† In other departments, however, this Blu-ray transfer soars. Colour is especially good, with the beautiful landscapes of Norway looking stunning in pristine high definition, while skin tones look natural and accurate. The transfer also manages the darker sequences with ease. This is a fairly good transfer, but it falls short of being a reference-quality disc.

††† There are only English subtitles available on this release. They are easy to read and smartly-formatted.


Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

††† Ex Machina carries two audio tracks: a lossless English DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, and an English descriptive audio track. I was only interested in the lossless 5.1 audio track, and even though the track falls short of perfection, it is impressive on the whole.

††† First, the bad. Dialogue is clear, but occasionally itís mixed a bit too low, in need of extra punch from the subwoofer. Additionally, it feels like the ambience in Nathanís home should be coming through in the surround channels a bit stronger.

††† Now, the good. The immersive original soundtrack comes through beautifully, and there are a number of scenes set outside that sound wonderfully immersive. The claustrophobia of the subterranean science labs comes through, as well, and there are no issues with audio sync or drop-outs.

††† The American Region A Blu-ray release carries a DTS-HD MA 7.1 track, and a DTS:X track. Judging from reviews of that release, the audio appears to be noticeably better than the decent but not excellent track we have been given.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

††† A pitifully small supply of extras, amounting to a few YouTube videos of very limited worth.

The Story (2:17)

††† An EPK-style featurette with film clips and interviews discussing the filmís themes and story.

The Cast (3:08)

††† More YouTube-grade fluff with Garland and the cast talking about their roles.

The Design (2:48)

††† Garland talks about finding the right location for Nathanís house, and other cast and crew talk about where Nathan lives and how this feeds into the story.

Creating AVA (3:17)

††† A slightly more interesting featurette discussing the design of AVA, and how the filmmakers turned Alicia Vikander into a robot.

The Turing Test (1:51)

††† A brief discussion of the Turing Test. Nothing too insightful.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

† † The UK release is identical to ours, but hereís what the American Region A release contains that we miss out on:

††† Wow! Thatís a far more agreeable release. Looking at the listing of the vignettes, it appears that a few of our EPK featurettes are not carried over to the Region A release, but that hardly matters since none of our supplements are worth keeping anyway. The Region A release wins, hands down, no competition. Just be aware that the Region A release is region locked, so you will need a multi-regional player to import.

Summary

††† One of 2015's more important movies, a science fiction thriller that deserves a wide audience. This Blu-ray release, however, is not worth writing home about. Distinctly average video and mixed audio, with maybe ten minutes worth of extras. Draw your own conclusions, but I will be importing from overseas.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Review Equipment
DVDPlayStation 4, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42LW6500. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationLG BH7520TW
SpeakersLG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W

Other Reviews NONE