Cyber security engineer by day and vigilante hacker by night, Elliot (Rami Malek, The Pacific) finds himself at a crossroads when the mysterious leader of an underground hacker group (Christian Slater, Nymphomaniac) recruits him to destroy the firm he’s paid to protect. Compelled by his personal beliefs, Elliot struggles to resist the chance to take down the multinational CEOs he believes are running (and ruining) the world. MR. ROBOT also stars Carly Chaikin (Suburgatory), Portia Doubleday (Her) and Martin Wallström (Simple Simon).
MR. ROBOT won over audiences at this year’s South By Southwest Festival in March, winning the coveted audience award in the Episodics category. The series was also named an official selection of the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival in April and nominated for IFP’s Gotham Awards new ‘Breakthrough Series’ category in October.
Three television shows from 2015 truly wowed me, not only with their storytelling, but with their cinematic approach to the medium: 'Better Call Saul,' 'Fargo,' and 'Mr. Robot.' These three shows successfully blended the best aspects of television (longform narratives) and cinema (superior cinematography and inventive editing techniques) to create a glorious hybrid.
For the purposes of this review we're focusing on Sam Esmail's 'Mr. Robot,' which is the story of hacker Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) and a mysterious group of Anonymous-esque hackers who he comes into contact with. Their purpose is simple, they want to bring down the large fictional conglomerate E Corp.
We see the story through Elliot's point of view. We're in his head, so to speak. 'Mr. Robot' plays with reality in such subtle ways that you're constantly questioning what exactly you're experiencing. Once Elliot introduces us to E Corp he starts calling them Evil Corp, then everyone in the show, even the company's employees are calling it Evil Corp. In this subtle way 'Mr. Robot' makes us question if we're experiencing the truth, or if we're only experiencing Elliot's truth.
Elliot's inner monologue drives the story. He's constantly breaking the proverbial fourth wall in order to let us in on a few secrets here and there. It's a technique that works especially well since we're unsure whether we're just observing Elliot's actions or if we're part of him.
Elliot spends his time using his hacker skills for good. When the show opens on its first episode it perfectly sets the stage for Elliot's character. He sits across from a man in a coffee shop and begins to tell him that he's hacked him, found kiddie porn on his hard drive, and has found out he's a large purveyor of the filth. The man pleads, asking Elliot what he wants. Elliot doesn't want anything, he's already called the cops. He doesn't seem to be doing this for himself.
There's much, much more to the story, but it's something that is best left unexplained to those who haven't seen it. There are so many surprises along the way that it'd be a travesty to spoil them. That's not to say knowing the show's secrets would make it any less satisfying. With the way creator Sam Esmail, his writers, directors, and editors have constructed the series visually, the narrative almost comes in second on the importance scale.
Seriously, 'Mr. Robot' is a breathtaking contemporary piece of longform filmmaking. Shots are framed with care and cinematic precision. Entire essays on film composition could be written on its opening sequences alone. Its unique look gives it an otherworldly presence. It turns a known world into a slightly off-center one. A world in which anything can, and might happen. A world where we can't necessarily trust our own eyes, because everything seems a tad…off.
The soundtrack acts as another character rather than a device to simply convey emotion. Like 'Fargo,' it becomes an integral part in the storytelling process. Sound is used just as inventively as the visuals. Sometimes loud music is abruptly cut off mid-lyric without warning. Sometimes music is used as a counter to the visuals, an opposite force to seemingly conveying the opposite feeling or emotion the scene requires.
Malek's performance here is superb. Constantly acting paranoid must be draining to one's psyche, but Malek pulls it off wonderfully. Christian Slater, who is later introduced as the Mr. Robot, gives probably the best performance of his career. Couple that with a dynamite supporting cast, and you have one of the best shows of 2015.
Esmail has created a tense thriller that not only tells an enthralling story, but does so with a decidedly cinematic flair. 'Mr. Robot' is one of a kind.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a two-disc Blu-ray set with 50GB discs included. The case includes two separate hubs for the discs, an UltraViolet Digital Copy, and a slipcover which actually has different artwork when compared to the art on the keepcase.
True to the show's cinematic air, the 1080p presentation offers up the best possible way to view these stunning visuals.
One thing you'll notice about 'Mr. Robot' is the way the show brilliantly uses foreground and background simultaneously. These layers are expertly detailed even if just a bit more focus is given to the foreground. Backgrounds are varied, from interiors like abandoned arcades to exteriors like Times Square and downtown Manhattan. All of these settings are teeming with endless details that are all presented with clarity.
Shadows are nicely delineated. There are no issues with crushing, banding, or aliasing to be found. Colors are strong and vivid. Skin tones are natural. Sometimes TV shows aren't as concerned with their visuals leading to solid, but bland Blu-ray transfers. 'Mr. Robot's transfer shines, because it's source material has so much more to offer.
This release has been given a DTS-HD Master Audio lossless mix. The eclectic soundtrack choices – which run the gamut of '80s synthesizers to punk rock – blast through the channels with ferocious glee. One might be tempted to say that the prioritization of the music is a tad high considering the rest of the sound field, but that wouldn't be accurate. Many times the music in the show is used to startle or even entrance. It has a mind of its own. Sometimes it's uncomfortably loud – it's meant to be that way.
Dialogue is always intelligible. Lots of whispering and mumbling from Elliot, but nothing comes out as garbled or hard to hear. The surround sound is alive and well. There's plenty of ambient noise to keep the rear channels lively. Everything from city streets, to busy office buildings provides a rather robust and constant stream of background noise coming from the rear channels.
LFE is resolute and unforgiving. Not a lot of TV shows give a subwoofer the kind of workout this one does. Directionality is flawless also. This is an all-around spectacular audio mix especially when considering that TV shows are hit and miss when it comes to creating an encompassing audio
Deleted Scenes (HD, 14 min.) – There are deleted scenes included on both discs. The first disc contains scenes from the first and third episodes that appear to be cut because they didn't fit with the story as a whole. The second disc has some lengthy deleted scenes – six in all – which are pulled from episodes six and eight.
Gag Reel (HD, 5 min.) – Standard gag reel stuff. A detrimental inclusion really, since it breaks the hypnotic embrace the show cultivates.
M4K1NG_OF_MR._ROBOT.MOV (HD, 12 min.) – This cleverly-named making-of featurette is a promo-style piece that quickly covers the show's creation, design, characters, and writing.
'Mr. Robot' understands that a compelling narrative is only half of its purpose. It strives to be as cinematic as possible by including various techniques we're only used to seeing on the big screen. What Esmail and company have created here is a TV-film hybrid that bridges the strengths of both mediums into something special. With exceptional audio and video presentations 'Mr. Robot' is highly recommended.