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DVD Review: Ex Machina - A Unique and Unnerving Film That Can't Be Missed

Ex MachinaProgrammer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is at work when he wins a competition to spend a week with the company's CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac) at his estate. Odd and reclusive, Nathan is a genius who has been working on a secret study of artificial intelligence and has chosen Caleb to be a part of an experiment. He is expected to evaluate a female android, Ava (Alicia Vikander), and decide if she has a consciousness, but things are not as black and white as he first is led to believe.

The film starts by plopping you right into the meat of the story with Caleb dropped into Nathan's world without much explanation of why other than he won a competition. He has no idea what's coming, and with only that lead up, it helps to make the audience feel as Caleb does. Caleb is not quick to trust the strange and obscenely rich man, who is very unnerving and suspicious at times, which makes you question everything, including even the basis of the test.

Ex MachinaThe mood of the film is drawn out brilliantly. There is not a lot of physical action, but the pace is what creates the brilliant tension. The whole film has a very claustrophobic feeling, helped along by the underground rooms and the glass cubes that the characters pace in.

I would classify it almost as a psychological thriller, but not the norm. Some movies are meant to make you laugh, others to scare. In my opinion, Ex Machina is meant to make you feel uncomfortable. The film has a very eerie quality at times.

I felt very torn through the film. You start to feel for Ava, yet still creeped out. It's almost disturbing in a way as you yourself see her as having a consciousness, yet feel that something is off. The film through to the end gives a completely unsettling feeling in the best way.

The film it shot beautifully and utilizes gorgeous sets, from the massive outdoor areas to Nathan's home, which goes from rich and luxurious to claustrophobic in a heartbeat. The design of Ava as well as her costume and makeup also fit well within the film. The look of the movie has the aesthetics of one created with a much larger budget.

Alex Garland wrote a brilliant script that sucks you in and keeps you guessing.

The cast was chosen perfectly for the film. Gleeson as the protagonist does a fantastic job of leading you right along with him in his choices and discoveries.

Isaacs does an exceptional job of being thoroughly ever-changing, from creepy to hilariously drunk.

Vikander is believable as the android in not just her acting but also her movements, which are deliberate and graceful. She had me guessing until the very end.

If you are looking for a unique experience, watch Ex Machina. The film is exhilarating and as original and fresh as it is thought provoking.


Special Features:

Ex MachinaThrough the Looking Glass: Creating Ex Machina - 39:59 - This feature is made of five parts; however, there is only one choice on the menu. This is a great feature that talks about most parts of filming and production.

 * Provenance: Session 1 - Writer/director Alex Garland talks about being interested in science fiction that is based in real science. He and the producer talk about the story and about artificial intelligence and computers advancing in the real work. They talk about self-awareness and such. The actors also chime in.

 * An AI and an I: Session 2 - The director and crew talk about Vikander's audition. Ava had to be someone that both Caleb and the audience could fall in love with. Also she was a ballerina and had the physicality they needed. The actress talks about having to create something that never existed, yet being able to use emotions to make her strange and unknowing as well as more than human.

They discuss Caleb as the protagonist and how he had to have a passive and innocent quality. Gleeson talks about loving the script.

They also talk about choosing Isaac, who had previously auditioned for Sunshine. There is a weird contradiction of aspects in Nathan. They also touch on Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno) and Isaac working with her.

 * Nature or Nurture: Session 3 - The cast and crew talk about the set design and decorations and having to create a billionaire's home on a low budget. The enormity of the landscape helped to sell the power of it. They also touch on lighting, and on filming on location and in the studio.

Another thing they discuss is grounding the story in science, and that the reality is not that far in the future beyond our scope of understanding.

They also talk about putting Caleb in a smaller clear box than Ava so she could pace back and forth, almost like a tiger, to make her seem trapped.

 * Misdirection: Session 4 - The costume, makeup, and hair designers talk about their work on the film. Topics include making Nathan look like he doesn't use a lot of effort in his appearance.

They wanted Caleb to start in a suit, gradually becoming more casual as he feels more comfortable. They di\yed Gleeson's hair and changed his skin color because Caleb lives by the beach.

For Kyoko they used off-white with black, simple fashions.

Ava's suit was complex. They talk about needing a material that wouldn't wrinkle that would work to remove parts of for CGI. They paid a lot of attention to details with the netting having a hexagonal pattern that they had to paint to make look like metal. They also discuss using a bald cap and fake skin to blend so it looks like Ava's skin is on top.

 * Metamorphosis: Session 5 - The film uses a low budget, yet has a high level of VFX. The producer talks about the need to make the parts of Ava feel mechanically plausible, yet look beautiful.

SXSW Q&A with Cast and Crew - 1:00:57 - This is the convention panel from 3/15/15 which features Geoff Barrow, Garland, Rob Hardy, Isaac, and Ben Salisbury.

Behind the Scenes Vignettes - While these are all interesting, a lot of the content is just snippets from the previous feature "Through the Looking Glass," and some of them even repeat the same quotes. It would have been nice to have more of a variety of content.

 * Making Ava - 3:38 - Garland talks about the story of the film and about Caleb falling in love with Ava. The VFX supervisor and others talk about her design, which started from a comic book drawing.

 * Nathan's World - 3:34 - The producer and Garland talk about Isaac, and the actor himself joins in. They discuss Nathan's house design as well as Ava's closed in area.

 * New Consiousness - 3:07 - The cast and crew talk about the Turing Test and about computers becoming thinking machines. The Turing Test has never been passed. They also discuss the ethical implications of A.I. including the fact that Ava is trapped.

 * Becoming Ava - 3:16 - Much of this is repeat about Ava, from Vikander and other cast members as well as Garland.

 * Director - 3:09 - Obviously this one features Garland. He talks about technology, and others discuss Ava's design.

 * Cast - 3:15 - Garland talks about the three main characters interacting and about the Turing test. He also talks about casting them. The actors talk about working with each other.

 * Meet Ava - 2:35 - Almost this entire one is repeat. The cast and crew talk about Ava and her consciousness, as well the design of her and her costume.

 * God Complex - 2:53 - Cast and crew talk about Caleb coming to Nathan after winning the contest and taking part in the experiment. They discuss Nathan as being a genius as well as a drunk and megalomaniac. They also talk about the isolated nature of Nathan's work.

Garland talks about corporate surveillance as opposed to government surveillance and ethical issues. He's interested in what something like A.I. could lead to.

 * Music - 3:09 - Garland talks about using the music in relation to Ava. The composers talk about creating Ava's music, which is almost like a nursery rhyme. As the film progresses, the music starts to disintegrate along with the changes in the character.

Trailers - The trailers include Maggie, Cut Bank, A Most Violent Year, and Under the Skin. They also play automatically when inserting the disc.

Packaging:

The Blu-ray disc comes in the normal blue clamshell case with slipcover. There is no DVD version of the film, but there is a Digital HD code included.
 
 

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