Movie Review – Exam (2009)

Movie Review - Exam (2009)Synopsis:
Eight talented candidates have reached the final stage of selection to join the ranks of a mysterious and powerful corporation. Entering a windowless room, an Invigilator gives them eighty minutes to answer one simple question. He outlines three rules they must obey or be disqualified: don’t talk to him or the armed guard by the door, don’t spoil their papers and don’t leave the room. He starts the clock and leaves. The candidates turn over their question papers, only to find they’re completely blank. After the initial confusion has subsided, one frustrated candidate writes ‘I believe I deserve…,’ and is promptly ejected for spoiling. The remaining candidates soon figure out they’re permitted to talk to each other, and they agree to cooperate in order to figure out the question: then they can compete to answer it. At first they suspect the question may be hidden in their papers like a security marker in a credit card, and they figure out ways to change their environment to expose the hidden words. But light, liquids and other plans all come to naught. Soon enough, the candidates begin to uncover each other’s background, prejudices and hidden agendas. Tensions rise as the clock steadily descends towards zero, and each candidate must decide how far they are willing to go to secure the ultimate job

Director: Stuart Hazeldine
Writers: Stuart Hazeldine, Simon Garrity (story)
Luke Mably as White
Adar Beck as Dark
Chris Carey as Guard
Gemma Chan as Chinese Girl
Nathalie Cox as Blonde
John Lloyd Fillingham as Deaf
Chukwudi Iwuji as Black (credited as “Chuk Iwuji”)
Pollyanna McIntosh as Brunette
Jimi Mistry as Brown
Colin Salmon as Invigilator

Exam is not an entirely new movie for those of us who have seen Cube and Fermat’s Room, but it is one of those few movies that really strike a chord with me. I like watching movies where you are one of the cast members trying to find the answer. This is a lesser version of Cube or Fermat’s Room, but still a fine movie in its own right that has gained a lot of steam in recent months.

I saw it for the first time once IFC first began distributing it, but have seen it two more times since and it still holds up well for me. I would have expected that the film would not hold up to subsequent views, but I was wrong on that. I am just as intrigued watching it now as I first was.

The plot is based on the play The Grönholm Method by Jordi Galcerán Ferrer. The was a 2005 film simply called The Method, which already had tackled the same topic. The plot is rather simple. We are in the final stage of an application process where the final applicants are all vying for a job of which they do not know much about. The corporation that they are applying for is mysterious and secretive. As part of the application process, they have a few simple rules which must be obeyed in order to complete the application process. As the mystery unfolds, we see the ugly side of human nature rear its ugly head and madness ensues.

It is often the simplest concepts that can make for the best movies, and with Exam everything boils down to one little piece of blank paper. While I like a good hack and slash horror film quite often, I am more a fan of these psychological-type movies that bring you into the movie and make you a part of it trying to figure out the mystery with everyone else. I think that a lot of people are like that as well, and if you are one of the people who are like that, I am very curious to see what you think of Exam. It comes highly recommended by me.

The film premiered in June 2009 as part of the Edinburgh Film Festival and was then part of the Raindance Film Festival 2009. It was released in UK cinemas on January 8, 2010 and on February 11, 2010, IFC Films acquired the rights for the US release where it released as part of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The DVD and Blu-Ray were released in the UK on June 7, 2010. There was no theatrical release in the US, but IFC Films released the film via video on demand on July 23, 2010 and on DVD on November 16, 2010.

Stuart Hazeldine earned a BAFTA nomination for his directing.