Friday, November 20, 2015

DVD(s) of the Week: Ex Machina and Foxcatcher

Yes, it's catch-up time. I've been pretty busy - exams, Thoughtbubble, attacks of Real Life, but we have managed to squeeze in a couple of movies in the last couple of weeks. So, lets dive right in. 

I was really annoyed to miss out on Ex Machina at the cinema earlier this year, because it looked right up my street. Sadly, it flew through the multiplexes before we got chance, to pretty good reviews, too. But, it's finally out on DVD, so it went straight to the top of my watchlist. The basic setup is that a coder for a large Search Engine company (that totally isn't Google) is selected by lottery to spend a week with the company's reclusive CEO at his isolated and self-sufficient home. There he is introduced to Ava, an android and prototype artifical intelligence, a striking half-machine, half-synthetic design that seems to perfectly encapsulate the film's intent. 

You know what, I'm not sure I want to say too much more as it's worth experiencing it reasonably cold to it's plot and themes. 

Playing out as a three-hander between main cast, Ex Machina is a slow-burning, moody piece of Science Fiction, starkly lit and futuristic sets surrounded by the natural shapes of rock and wood through the sealed windows. It's marvellously ambigious and understated; gripping and atmospheric, and I loved it. The story moves at just the right pace; the characters just smart enough, just drawn enough, to build to tradgedy without it being too easy to assign blame. Everyone is a mystery, and thats really cool. We don't get smart SF movies enough, and this is one you should see. 

After a quiet examination of humanity in Ex Machina, it's strange to talk about Foxcatcher, in which few of it's characters come across as functionally human. Based on the true story of American Billionaire John Du Ponts building of the US Wrestling Team in the early 1990s, it's a strange, unsettling movie about hard to like characters acting in hard to like ways. It's mainly an acting showcase for Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo, all of which pitch quiet, subtext heavy performances largely in tune with a flattened colour pallette. 

I think I might have liked Foxcatcher more if I was in a different mood - the performances are pretty good, especially from Carrell, and the tone of the film fits in perfectly. But really there is no-one to latch onto and follow, no-one to really care about, and with no emotional connection to the film it was something I could sort of appreciate, but not really enjoy.  Oh well.