02 April 2011

Movies: Exam

Exam (2009) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1258197/

An "I've never heard of this film before" mystery/thriller out of the UK. Yes, a foreign mystery/thriller, but it's in English. English-English.

Plot: 8 folks are brought into a windowless sparse room and sat at individual desks. On each desk is a piece of paper and a pencil.  They are the 8 final candidates for a position at a company, all vying for a job.  The Invigilator - which is 'test administrator' in American-English - congratulates them for overcoming whatever trials they had reaching this point and beating out all other candidates for the chance. They have one final exam.  They have 80 minutes to answer one question.  He gives them 3 simple rules: 1) Don't talk to the armed guard at the door or attempt to address the Invigilator or you will be disqualified. 2) Don't spoil your paper, either intentionally or unintentionally or you will be disqualified. 3) If you leave the room for any reason you will be disqualified. He starts the clock, then asks "Are there any questions?"  Nobody answers him, he leaves the room.  The 8 folks look at their papers.  On one side is printed "Candidate" and a number corresponding to where they sat, the other side is blank.

Now we are treated to watch these 8 folks try to figure out what the question is so they can come up with an answer.

9 people in a room (8 testers, 1 guard that doesn't speak). That's the whole set. A total cast of 10 folks. And 101 minutes of film to watch these folks before, during, and a little after the 80 minute test period. Sounds like an adventure, doesn't it? I didn't think so either.  My initial reaction was, "oh no, not  "Nine Dead" again."

Lucky for me (and you) that it isn't. Nothing like it at all.

Because this was a good movie.  Acted well, shot well, edited well, scripted well. It would probably work as a stage play. The characters are better individuals than the ones we got in "Nine Dead", more depth and convincing performances. It is a thriller, it is a mystery. It actually was compelling to see 8 folks in a room for over 80 minutes, just to see where things go and see it through to the end.

Is the end satisfying? Are any ends truly as satisfying as the journey leading to them?
Well, Tom Cruise smothering Cameron Diaz in "Vanilla Sky" was a satisfying end (to Cameron Diaz), though hollow. But that's different. Yes that was random and has nothing to do with this film by any stretch of the imagination, but for a moment I got to live vicariously through Tom Cruise. That's what makes movies special.

I suspect any given viewer is going to set themselves different levels of "end satisfaction anticipation" than other viewers, so I can't tell you if you'll like the end of the movie or not. I can tell you I did enjoy the journey getting to the end, and I honestly wasn't expecting much from the film at the outset.  My interest was piqued and I stayed for the ride. So kudos to the wife for showing interest in seeing the film from its description, I almost passed it up despite Netflix recommending I see it.

So if you enjoy a good thriller/mystery film that is slightly science fiction but mostly a psychological journey, this film was entertaining and worth watching if you enjoy those types of films.

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