Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Experiment (2010) - DVD Review

Courtesy of eOne Films

Writer/Dir: Paul Scheuring (36K)
Cast: Adrien Brody, Forest Whitaker, Cam Gigandet, Ethan Cohn, Clifton Collins Jr., Jason Lew, David Banner, Maggie Grace
USA, 2010 (DVD Release)

Reason to see: Steller cast and acclaim for the German version of the film Das Experiement

The Experiment (2010) centres on a group of men who sign up for a behavioural experiment for a tidy paycheque for a mere 2 weeks with the conditions set being ensured that they will be safe, however some will be deprived of civil rights for the duration of the experiment. The location of the experiment is a simulated jail, where the men are given roles as either prisoners or guards and both need to abide by rules to ensure completion of the experiment.

The film is based on the novel Black Box by Mario Giordano which was based on a true occurrence of the Stanford prison experiment which had people take on the roles of prisoners and guards. The novel was then turned into the German film Das Experiment in 2001, and now been remade into this version The Experiment (2010). Just to be clear the film is a fictionalization, but certainly a fictionalization with a message.

The film darkly explores lots of different dynamics from power dynamics to group dynamics, from keeping and taking responsibility, following rules and/or a system and morality. Placing these themes stacked against a huge monetary incentive gives an insane amount of tension to keep things together, but with a honed focus on not only power but also the effect of powerlessness, some of the most disturbing threads of the film are ones where money isn't the incentive. We are used to seeing people in film doing and enduring extremes for money, but when the incentive shifts and grows under other reasoning it becomes way more disturbing.

You know when you are seeing a situation prefaced by civil rights being deprived, it's not going to be a walk in the park and the film is certainly not for the weak of heart but is a place we look to for strong performances and in that case it does shine. With 2 Oscar winners in the mix, the acting certainly is top notch from both Adrien Brody and Forest Whitaker, but the performances by the entire ensemble cast were strong although I was particularly taken by the performances of both Clifton Collins Jr. and Ethan Cohn.

The film brings a lot of interesting questions to light on power systems and individuality, and especially on what it takes for people to stand up for change. Who's willing to tuck into their roles versus those willing to intercede, and at what cost? Questions that are as important to ask as they are to have answers for.

I am surprized we didn't see this version on the big screen considering the calibre of the actors and the huge success of the original film. Perhaps the questions are too intense to ponder in the company of an audience and are best explored in a more solitary manner.

Warnings: torture, violence, disturbing ideas, images & behaviour

DVD Extras:
  • Soundbites (20 minutes) - Interviews with writer/director Paul Scheuring, producers Jeanette Buerling & Bill Johnson, and actors Adrien Brody, Forest Whitaker, Cam Gigandet, Ethan Cohn, Clifton Collins Jr., Jason Lew & Maggie Grace.
  • B-roll Selects (7 minutes) - behinds the scenes footage during film at several of the film locations
  • Film Clips (5minutes, 14 clips) literally 14 separate clips from the film
  • The Experiment, a microcosm featurette (8 minutes) - combination of film clips, b-roll and interviews exploring the inspiration, message, analogy and the hope of what people would take away of the film. Interviews include insights from writer/director Paul Scheuring, producers Jeanette Buerling & Bill Johnson, and actors Adrien Brody, Forest Whitaker, Cam Gigandet, Ethan Cohn, Clifton Collins Jr., Jason Lew & Maggie Grace, and primarily is different footage from the soundbites selections.
The Experiment (2010) is available on DVD as of September 21, 2010. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I appreciated the acting and the importance message
I'd not likely watch it again due to disturbing content & ideas
I'd recommend it if you like films that explore the darker side of human nature and psychological dramas

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© Shannon Ridler, 2010

Forest Whitaker (left), Adrien Brody - Courtesy of eOne Films

Adrien Brody - Courtesy of eOne Films

Courtesy of eOne Films - Clifton Collins Jr.


blake said...

Hmmm, I do like movies that explore the darker side of human nature. But disturbing content isn't is my favorite. I've been wondering whether or not I should watch this. I guess I'm still up in the air about it.

Anonymous said...

Excellent movie, but hard to watch, disturbing in that the audience feels helpless and watches as the actors spiral down the hidden valleys of the primal mind. It gave me the same eerie feeling as the movie 'Lord of the Flies'....what some people are capable of when there is no accountability.

Monica said...

It’s worth a watch, Blake. I just watched The Experiment through my employee subscription to DISH’s TV Everywhere and what a thought-provoking movie it is! I love movies that make me think and give insight to human nature so this one was perfect for me.

Emma said...

A faint and poor remake of a German movie that far much better than this one. To me this movie didn't come up to my expectation. Those didn't have seen the original movie might like it but I don't like it at all.
The Experiment 2010

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