Ex Machina DVD Review
What’s It About? Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a coder at the world’s largest internet company, wins a competition to spend a week at the mountain retreat of his reclusive billionaire boss Nathan (Oscar Isaac).
He cannot believe his luck and he’s even more surprised when he discovers the reason he’s there is to interact with a female robot called Ava (Alicia Vikander) created by Nathan and to find out whether she’s truly self-aware, like a human being.
Verdict: My expectations for Ex Machina were sky-high. First of all, because of the trio of uber-talented actors who star in the film. And second, because writer Alex Garland has pretty much nailed every script he’s written from 28 Days Later to Dredd.
So, how could Ex Machina possibly live up to my level of anticipation? Well, not only did it live up to it, but it actually exceeded it!
As well as writing Ex Machina, Alex Garland makes his debut in the director’s chair and he excels in both departments. The script is clever and coherent while the visuals are simply stunning.
Because so much of Ex Machina is about Caleb, Nathan and Ava getting to know each other, most of the film revolves around conversations between them, rather than action. In the hands of Garland, this isn’t a problem though as he’s written a dialogue-driven script that’s full of tension, deals with big issues in a clear manner, and is consistently fascinating.
In fact, I was gripped from the start right through to the end by Garland’s perfect blend of intelligent sci-fi and psychological thriller infused with horror. And he’s also managed to inject a good dose of humour into the film too, sometimes in the most unlikely moments, and this works just wonderfully. Look out for one of the best dance scenes I’ve seen in a very long time!
Not only has Garland done a top job in the writer’s and director’s chair, he’s also assembled a crack team of on-screen and behind-the-scenes talent who really make the film pop. If you’ve watched my review of the wartime drama Testament Of Youth, you’ll know how highly I think of Swedish actress Alicia Vikander.
And she’s just as dazzling again in Ex Machina, giving another finely honed performance as female robot Ava. Vikander’s speech, facial expressions, gestures and gait all combine beautifully to suggest an otherness intermingled with humanity. And you can sense Vikander’s early training as a ballerina in the way she’s able to completely control her body, brilliantly blurring the line between how humans and robots move.
Oscar Isaac brings Nathan to life oh-so superbly, which is hardly surprising given his past performances in films like Drive, Inside Llewyn Davis, and A Most Violent Year. He’s one of those actors who can totally vanish into a role, and he does that to great effect in Ex Machina.
Isaac cleverly balances his performance on a knife-edge between what Nathan’s like on the surface and what he’s like in reality. So, despite Nathan’s super-chill demeanour and his apparent air of down-to-earth matey-ness, there’s more than a trace of the supreme control freak about him. Between his superb turn in Ex Machina, and roles coming up in Star Wars and X-Men: Apocalypse, the next 18 months are going to be huge for Isaac!
Just like Isaac and Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson’s star is very much on the rise this year; with Episode 7 among a number of films you’ll see him in in 2015. Gleeson’s worked before with both Vikander and Alex Garland on Joe Wright’s adaptation of Anna Karenina and on the sci-fi action movie Dredd. And he impresses yet again in Ex Machina with an intelligent and natural performance as the softly-spoken Caleb.
Oh, and if you want to find out more about what the year ahead holds for Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander, click here to watch my video on the 10 Actors You Must Watch in 2015!
Much-deserved props also go to cinematographer Rob Hardy, who’s never worked on a sci-fi movie before. Hardy did an exceptional job on Testament Of Youth and his work on Ex Machina is outstanding. Comic book artist Jock, who did the early concept design for Ava, and the movie’s visual effects team have also done an absolutely stellar job bringing Ava to life.
And I must also mention production designer Mark Digby and set decorator Michelle Day whose work is so crucial to the whole eerily beautiful feel of the film. Although just outside Nathan’s home-come-research-facility there are acres of gorgeous wilderness filled with mountains, trees and waterfalls, the building’s geographical isolation coupled with the fact that Caleb’s more or less confined there gives the whole film a decidedly claustrophobic atmosphere. Add to that the building’s sleek lines and toned-down modernist feel, and the whole space feels strangely unsettling.
Extras: Ex Machina – The Story, The Cast, The Design, Creating Ava, and The Turing Test.
Final Words: Ex Machina is a superlative sci-fi flick that benefits from an outstanding script, pitch-perfect performances and stunning visuals. What’s not to like?!
Ex Machina is available on Digital Download now & on Blu-ray & DVD from 1 June 2015.