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[4K UHD Blu-ray Review] Alex Garland’s Directorial Debut ‘Ex Machina’ is a Sci-Fi Masterpiece

In recent years I’ve been really bad at making it out to theaters to see new films. I get out to the movies plenty but typically it’s to see some classic genre film on 35mm or something of that nature. While seeing anything in 35mm is always a treat I’m missing out on seeing some really cool modern movies on the big screen. Recently I reviewed Dredd, an awesome flick that I missed on the big screen, and now you can add Ex Machina, the stunning directorial debut from the talented Alex Garland, to the pile of awesome stuff I was late to the party on.

Domhnall Gleeson stars a Caleb a programmer for a company called Blue Book. Blue Book is basically a Google-like company. Within the movie Blue Book is the most dominate search engine in the world but they’re also the leader in technology in general. Caleb wins contest that allows him to go spend a week with Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the eccentric billionaire genius that founded and owns Blue Book.

Nathan leaves in a massive isolated house all by himself. It’s basically a highly secured smart house. Caleb isn’t sure what he’ll be doing there, but he’s excited because this is a big deal. Everyone sort of has an idea of what Nathan’s house is like and getting to go there and spend time with him is considered to be the highest honor. Once Caleb arrives, however, he realizes things are quite what he expected, even though he didn’t know what to expect.

For starters Nathan is a narcissistic drunk. He’s a genius, no doubt, but he’s also a major asshole. He talks about how happy he is to have Caleb there and wants to be friends with him and just hang out, but he can’t help but be highly condescending and just all around dickish. Then to top things off, Caleb didn’t actually win a contest, he was chosen by Nathan.

Nathan has created a humanoid robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander) with artificial intelligence. Nathan thinks she can change the world, but he needs to run some tests. Nathan wants Caleb to spend some time with her, see if she is actually capable of consciousness and see if he can connect with her even though going into it Caleb is aware of the fact that she is a robot. Caleb is still a bit hesitant about the whole situation but he’s also thrilled because this is a big scientific breakthrough. Neither Caleb nor Nathan get what they bargain for.

I was blown away by this movie. In a word it is stunning. For starters it looks gorgeous. This is the first film I’ve seen shot by cinematographer Rob Hardy and I kind of feel like he needs to shoot everything going forward. But it’s not just Hardy that makes this feel look so good. You also have wonderful set design and the Oscar winning visual effects team. They all came together to create this perfect world.

Inside this world you’re dealing with three characters and they’re all completely different but in a sense the same. Caleb, Nathan and Ava all have alterior motives throughout the film. Every time you think you know, you realize you don’t know. You hit a bump in the road or take a slight turn and things change drastically. The outstanding cast deserves major credit for the subtle things they do to mislead you and then you have to give it up for Garland’s perfect script.

Ex Machina asks how much technology is too much technology? It questions whether or not humans should play God. This is a movie that tells us what we all already know — humans are the worst enemy of humans. Our desires to continuously progress will be our undoing.

This is the type of movie that if you didn’t get to see on the big screen — that would be me — then you have to see it in 4K. I already told you how gorgeous this movie looks. You know the visual effects crew won an Oscar for a reason. So why wouldn’t you want to see this is the best possible format? 4K is that format. There’s a dance scene in the film that really highlights how wonderful the 4K disc looks. The colors are just sharper and offer more pop.

Oddly the 4K disc itself doesn’t have any special features. That’s not a problem because the 4K disc also comes with the standard Blu-ray that is loaded up with bonus content. And there’s a bunch of good behind-the-scenes stuff to go alone with a making of and a SxSw Q&A. It’s just interesting that they weren’t ported over to the 4K disc.

Ex Machina is wonderful. Why I waited so long to see it, I don’t know. But now that I have seen it, this is going to be one of my go-to movies. I could watch this over and over again.

Ex Machina is now available on 4K UHD Blu-ray from Lionsgate.

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