BLU-RAY REVIEW — “Ex Machina” (4K)
Ex Machina, from first time director Alex Garland (screenwriter of 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, Sunshine, and Dredd), is more cerebral science fiction fare than standard Hollywood output. 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’s 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.
A science fiction drama that explores deep themes and ideas as well as suspense thriller, Ex Machina should be praised for its intelligence as much as its effects (it won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 2015). Ex Machina can best be described as appropriately Kubrickian, with a frigid and sterile feel straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. If you’re searching for more blockbuster-ish A.I. fare — like I, Robot, or even Transcendence — Ex Machina isn’t it; instead, it’s more brainy and analytical. Films with dense, talky screenplays or challenging themes can be boring and unengaging, but Ex Machina is both intriguing and stylish, tethered by strong performances from its trio of leads (Vikander, Isaac, and Gleeson).
Releasing the same day as Dredd 4K (also a Lionsgate release), Ex Machina stylized presentation is enhanced by the 4K UHD format. The standard 1080p Blu-ray presentation was mostly sharp and detailed, but it should be noted the film has a “soft” visual style. The picture quality, while enhanced, isn’t as night-and-day as you would expect, evolving from the Blu-ray format to the 4K UHD format — that said, the film as presented here is clearly even better than its predecessor, the 2015 Blu-ray release. Ex Machina, by nature of the way it was filmed, isn’t a panty-dropping disc the way other 4K discs are (particularly Lionsgate’s, who are doing a fine job revitalizing films in the UHD format), but it’s a clear improvement over the rather drab presentation seen on the Blu-ray.
Ex Machina is more natural than colorful, and though colors are improved, it would be unfair to knock the 4K disc for being accurate to the film and the filmmakers’ vision. The 2160p UHD 16×9 widescreen 2.40:1 presentation is a clear upgrade over the 2015 1080p Blu-ray; if you already own Ex Machina, it might not be worth upgrading to the 4K UHD release. But if Garland’s modern sci-fi classic isn’t already part of your collection, Ex Machina is worth picking up in the 4K format (despite the newness of UHD, consumers should “future proof” their collections by opting for the 4K release when available — with the Blu-ray disc included in addition to the 4K disc, it only makes sense to purchase the “ultimate” release of a film on home media).
Included are eight behind-the-scenes vignettes, a five-part featurette (“Through the Looking Glass: Creating Ex Machina“), a SXSW Q&A with the cast and crew, and an Oscar Isaac dance scene easter egg. All extras are carried over from the Ex Machina Blu-ray and no newly created extras are included. The 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack includes the 4K disc, a Blu-ray disc, and a Digital HD code. Ex Machina is available on 4K Blu-ray on June 6th.