The concept of robotic humanoids in film goes back a long way with perhaps the coolest early examples being the replicants in Blade Runner, and the recent release of Ex Machina shows that there’s likely to be no stop for more stand-out sci-fi movies focusing on the concept of human-like machines. Just from the look of the trailer below it was shaping up to be a mind-blowing thriller right from the very beginning, with elements of AI and I Robot combined in a subtler, sharper and more stripped back movie style, and now that it’s out on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download you can watch it’s tightly wound storyline unfold to your heart’s content.
Rather bizarrely, Ex Machina had split it’s trans-Atlantic release dates fairly significantly and inverted the usual flow of things to give the UK precedence with a release on the 23rd January 2015. The U.S. release date for the Film 4 and DNA Films production didn’t happen until the 10th April 2015 as the film pitched up for the bumper Easter box office takings.
It’s a move that might have sort of annoyed the U.S. sci-fi cinema going community a little as they will have had to wait an extra two and a half months after the UK release to see the movie. It was a risky move for the British movie, but as anticipation continued to build, the split release dates turned out not to be an issue with critics and cinema goers praising the film extensively.
If you missed it at the big screen, the Ex_Machina DVD release date in the UK went ahead on 1st June 2015, along with Blu-ray. It was available on digital download as early as the 18th May 2015, which was the first opportunity to catch the film following its box office run. As with the cinematic release, the US DVD, Blu-ray and digital download was a little behind the UK with them making their way Stateside on the 14th July 2015.
Set a little in the future, the plot follows a young computer programmer called Caleb who wins a surreal, Willy Wonker style competition through his work to become a guest at his CEO’s million dollar pad out in the country. Excited by the opportunity to learn from the head of his company he sets out with high expectations, but soon finds out that he’s actually there to take part in one of the biggest social and scientific experiments in the history of man as he comes face to face with Ava, a beautiful robotic woman that his boss has created.
Things start off well, but big issues around the nature of consciousness, freedom, emotions, sexuality, truth and duplicity swirl up to ask more and more of him as he struggles to understand the severe complexity of the twisting situation. It sets things up to be an impressive sci-fi psychological thriller of allegorical proportions and adds to the many movies that have challenged the concept of advanced robotic artificial intelligence.
For us, it’s an important point as it’s easy to see how sentient robotics could eventually lead to significant problems for the human race. There have been a raft of movies looking at some of the issues that could arise, with the Terminator series, Superman 2 and The Matrix acting as a few of the more extreme potential realities, but we still seem to be slowly walking towards increasingly complex artificial intelligence.
While robotic sentience is still a long long way off in terms of technological advancement, it feels like the prize that the robotics industry ultimately want to realise, which seems like a dangerous game to play. If you want sentience, we already have it in humanity. If you want clever robotics, we just need sophisticated programming. The two should never meet, and Ex Machina manoeuvres very well to present the moral dilemma of the situation.
The relatively small cast consists of Domhnall Gleeson, who you might recognise from Dredd, Black Mirror and as Bill Weasley in Harry Potter, as Caleb, Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) as Caleb’s boss Nathan and Swedish actress Alicia Vikander takes on the cybernetic challenge of Ava. It’s cool to see Domhnall taking on such a central role, having been in supporting roles for the majority of his career to-date, and it looks like he’s put in an impressive performance from the trailer below, alongside equally good outings from Isaac and Vikander. The cast is rounded off by British-Japanese model, actress and ballerina, Sonoya Mizuno, who plays Nathan’s relatively mute personal assistant, Kyoko, making a very strong acting debut in the process.
Ex Machine is the latest deep thinking movie from British writer and producer Alex Garland, who makes his directorial debut on the film, as well as writing the script. It builds on his previous success with his previous screenplays for 28 Days Later and Dredd, as well as his novel The Beach. Andrew Macdonald, co-founder of DNA Films, and his production partner Allon Reich have produced the movie, which went into post production in Autumn 2014.
We always try to maintain some semblance of critical cynicism and impartial objectivity, but the reality is that we were looking forward to the release of Ex Machina as soon as we heard about it. It’s been a while since we saw a challenging robot movie and this has become an instant classic, with a fascinating storyline, exceptional acting, great visuals and special effects and a whole lot of tension. Read our full review to find out more.