Words: Saam Das
Director: Stuart Hazeldine
Cast: Colin Salmon, Jimi Mistry, Luke Mably, Adar Beck
Eight candidates. Eighty minutes. One exam paper. One armed guard. One invigilator. One question. One answer. Three rules: 1) Do not speak to the invigilator or the armed guard. 2) Do not spoil your paper. 3) Do not leave the room.
As the invigilator leaves the room, he instructs the candidates to begin. Each turns over their own paper. They turn it over again. And again. All their papers are blank. What is the answer? More importantly, what is the question?
Billed as a dystopian imagining of 'The Apprentice', 'Exam' is more part-psychological-thriller and part-science-fiction. We follow these eight anonymous candidates restricted to a single room to battle for a job at a highly regarded yet mysterious biotechnology company.
The film begins with a methodical, analytical focus as the candidates seek to discover more about what they've let themselves into. They realise they can co-operate and in fact, must co-operate to further their chances of completing the task within the allocated time. With the clock ticking down, tensions inevitably rise as the candidates struggle to come to terms with the selection process and hidden agendas are revealed. The real question in 'Exam' thus becomes just how far the candidates are prepared to go to be selected. A notion that has particular relevance in these times of economic difficulty.
As with any one room thriller, the film lives or die by its acting performances. Thankfully, 'Exam' is characterised by a selection of strong performances, most notably from the shady Jimi Mistry, the beautiful Adar Beck and the increasingly abrasive Luke Mably. First time director Stuart Hazeldine also provides an accomplished hand to 'Exam', particularly with his heightening of intrigue in the first half of the film.
High concept films often suffer from a lack of a satisfying pay-off, and 'Exam' is no exception. Sadly, after the impressive slow build in the analytical foundations of the film, the ending lacks the necessary kick that its audience deserves. Nonetheless, 'Exam' is an absorbing film that is well worth seeking out.
'Exam' is out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week in UK retailers.