‘Ex Machina’ Cautionary Tales Lands on a Stunning 4K Blu-ray

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Ex Machina

Great science fiction tackles topics that aren’t far from where we’re at and examines the benefits and terrors of such a hypothetical discovery. The directorial debut of veteran screenwriter Alex Garland, Ex Machina, did just that a couple of years ago with its haunting examination as to the possible benefits and dangers of artificial intelligence. The film, which won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, now has been issued on a new 4K Blu-ray that brings the vibrant style of the film to vivid life.

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a computer programmer that has been invited to the secluded estate of Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), a tech billionaire and genius. Nathan is egotistical, drinks too much, and is highly concerned with secrecy, making Caleb sign an extensive non-disclosure agreement and providing him with a key card that limits what corners of the estate that he’s allowed to venture into. Caleb’s purpose for this visit is to attempt the Turing test, a test that is supposed to determine whether an A.I. unit actually has consciousness, on Nathan’s latest invention, Eva (Alicia Vikander). This isn’t just about technology, it’s about what it means to be conscious and there are some dark corners in this secluded estate as well as the conscious mind.

Advances in A.I. technology in just the few years since the release of Ex Machina have made the film feel as relevant as it was when it debuted in 2015. The best comparison to Ex Machina would be Frankenstein, with Nathan Bateman resembling the mad doctor obsessed with reanimating undead tissue. However, Frankenstein’s monster is a creature of pure impulse and not highly intelligent. Eva, on the other hand, is extremely intelligent and capable of learning at a rate that exceeds her human creator. Nathan has created a remarkable technological breakthrough but doesn’t have the foresight to imagine that his creation may learn, and rather quickly, to hate him. All of which leads to a stunning conclusion that leaves Ex Machina as a haunting piece of thought-provoking science fiction.

At the time of its release, Alicia Vikander was a relative unknown in the movie world. That would be short-lived, as Vikander would have a breakout turn in Ex Machina and even win an Oscar for her work in The Danish Girl. (How she won for The Danish Girl when Ex Machina came out the same year is absolutely baffling.) Ex Machina also, in its own unique way, provided an introduction to a number of actors that would play prominent roles in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, only with a role reversal. Nathan Bateman is a role that highlights Oscar Isaac’s amazing versatility. Isaac shows the immense charm that has made him one of the most captivating actors of recent memory, but there’s also a dark side of rage and arrogance. Conversely, Domhnall Gleeson plays a kinder, gentler character, one that is inquisitive and curious, as opposed to his genocidal General Hux in that galaxy far, far away. The old saying goes that “directing is 90% casting,” and Alex Garland made one hell of a splash with his directorial debut.

This latest 4K edition of Ex Machina highlights the film’s stunning visuals, from its Oscar-winning special effects to its lush production design. The cinematography Rob Hardy makes fantastic use of space and color, all of which look incredibly vibrant in 4K. There’s no better example of the film’s style and color coming to life than Oscar Isaac and Sonoya Mizuno unexpectedly dancing to Oliver Cheatham’s “Get Down Saturday Night” as the film starts taking a darker, more unsettling turn. That scene alone proves that any movie can be vastly improved by a scene of Oscar Isaac dancing.

Technology will keep advancing at a breakneck speed (just look at the prevalence of 4K visual technology) but there will always be smart, insightful stories from writers that understand that there are always unintended consequences to each advancement. Alex Garland gets that and has crafted a science fiction tale that will endure as we get closer and closer to an Eva-like form artificial intelligence. Ex Machina was stunning upon its initial release, and it only seems more relevant with each passing day and each new technological breakthrough. Humans will never stop creating. Let’s just hope they don’t create something that winds up hating them.

Ex Machina
  • Overall Score


A thematically rich, intellectually insightful work of science fiction, Ex Machina is still startling relevant in its examination on the potential unintended consequences of artificial intelligence. Oh yeah, and Oscar Isaac busts a move.

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