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DVD Review: The Experiment

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The Experiment is the imaginatively named movie about an experiment. I was not expecting to like it when I first heard of it (expecting it to be something like The Human Centipede from the title) so I was pleasantly surprised.

The film is about a group of men who volunteer for a behavioural experiment. The idea behind it is to take some people and simulate a prison environment. One group becomes the wardens and the other becomes the prisoners. The pay is $1000 a day for two weeks. You can understand what tempted them. 

The main leads slide into two easy roles. One becomes the leader of the prisoners, fighting for justice and his love, etc. The other becomes the surprisingly brutal guard who learns just what he’s capable of in certain circumstances. The pacifist leader of the prisoners is played by Adrien Brody and he plays his part well, although I felt like he antagonised the guards for no reason and made it harder on himself. 

The warden is played by That Fella From The Last King Of Scotland, Forest Whitaker. It was quite chilling to see how quickly he descended into brutality, although the seeds of his characterisation are sown from the beginning to show you he’s not all there in the head. 

One of the shocking things about this film is how quickly the wardens devolve into absolutely horrible people (one of them starts being a dick within the first 20 minutes or so), and how quickly the power goes to their heads. Especially Forest’s character. One of the other dickwads is played by an actor I only know of from the unfortunately overblown franchise Twilight. (It’s Cam Gigandet, the guy who plays James, if you were curious.)

Also perhaps a bit shocking is that events similar to this actually happened, although I wasn’t surprised in the slightest to hear this. The movie is based on the 2001 German film Das Experiment, which was based on the Standford Prison Experiment, a real psychological study conducted in 1971 at Stanford University.

Though I was already familiar with the names Forest Whitaker and Adrien Brody, The Experiment was the first chance I’ve had to see them in action, so to speak. And it was a good film to bring them to my attention; I would’ve not given a damn about them if not for this. I may check out more of their output.

The DVD includes three special features: cast interviews, a ‘B Roll’ (a term I have never heard before) and a trailer. The cast interviews are only really good if you want to know how they got a feel for a character or how good the director is. Because that gets said a lot. The B Roll itself is pretty uninteresting but that’s not really their fault. 

From what I can gather, this went straight to DVD and I can’t see why. This is the kind of film that I would expect to do well in the cinema, especially in these days when films have all kinds of messages and morals behind them about freedom. And the glory of blowing shit up, but mostly freedom. 

This is the kind of film where the extras make no difference to your enjoyment of the film. The film is good and I recommend buying it just for that. 

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About Scott Varnham