Monday, May 21, 2012

It Came From Netflix:Exam(2009)

By Eric Polk-
These days, in this cannibalistic economy, getting a job of just about any sort is more difficult then solving calculus in kindergarten. Naturally, the lengths one will go to to find employment can be down right seedy.

With this British-made film directed by Stuart Hazeldine,a disease called The Virus has made a large part of the population dependent on medication that must be taken every few hours to prevent falling into a coma followed by death. Most of the film takes place in a single room, where eight candidates take an exam for an important job as the Personal Assistant to the CEO of a mysterious bio-tech company that is said to work on a cure for The Virus.

The Invigilator, a representative of the company, explains that the exam takes 80 minutes and consists of one question only, and that there are three rules: do not talk to the Invigilator or the armed guard at the door, do not spoil the paper, and do not leave the room. Not obeying the rules will result in disqualification. After the clock starts, it turns out that the question papers are blank. One candidate is removed from the room for spoiling her paper by writing on it. The seven remaining candidates realize they can talk to each other and work together, and give each other nicknames: Black, White, Brown, Blonde, Brunette, and Dark, referring to their skin and hair colors, and Deaf for one candidate who does not pay attention to the others. The candidates use the lights and fire sprinklers to try to reveal a hidden question on the paper, with no luck. White takes control of the group but really works against them, engineering the disqualifications of Brunette and Deaf. White then taunts the others, saying he knows the question but will not tell the rest.

Black subdues White and ties him to a chair, calling him a distraction to the group. White says he is infected with The Virus and needs his medication, but the others do not believe him. Dark suggests White is actually a plant from the company, and demonstrates much knowledge about the internal workings of the company. This leads Brown to accuse her of being a plant, and tortures her into revealing that she works for the company, but is still applying for the job like everyone else. Just then White goes into convulsions, proving he has the disease. Dark asks the unseen invigilator for help and is disqualified. Blonde finds that Brown was hiding the medication, and gives it to White.

The others release White and want to know the question, but he says the only explanation is that there is no question; the company is going to hire the last remaining candidate. White attacks the others and grabs a gun from the guard, who still does nothing. White forces Brown to leave the room. Blonde is next, but she suddenly douses the lights, allowing Black to attack White. When the lights are turned on Black is dead from a gunshot, and Blonde has only partially left the room, still in the game. The clock then expires. White addresses the Invigilator to say he is best candidate, but is disqualified; it is revealed Deaf had earlier set the countdown forward by a few minutes.

A very tense, claustrophobic movie, Exam is one of those films that unlocks the true character of people when they're placed in a stressful situation. Its timing couldn't be more appropriate. There is no gore but the suspense, the psychological edge this movie brings is fantastic The twist is rather predictable if you're paying attention but it's far from a distraction.  I'm quite surprised this film didn't generate more of a buzz, but perhaps that is a good thing. Sometimes the best celluloid treasures are buried just for you.

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