Friday, August 08, 2014

Exam (2009)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

These are tough times.  There are a lot of people looking for work.  Eight people have a chance to get a really good job.  They show up and are greeted by an invigilator.  (I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up; an invigilator is a fancy word for someone who supervises a test.)  The invigilator tells them that they will be judged based on their response to one question.

If any of the candidates talk to either him or the guard, that candidate will be disqualified and ejected from the room.  If any candidate ruins their paper in any way, they are disqualified and ejected.  If any candidate walks out, they will be disqualified and will not be let back in.  When they open their test papers, the eight people discover that the only writing on their papers is a number, one through eight.  There is no question.

The quickly agree that there should be no use of real names, so they all use descriptive names.  (The blonde becomes Blonde.  The guy that doesn’t seem to be able to hear is called Deaf, although this turns out to be a misnomer.)  At first, they agree to cooperate, at least to figure out what’s going on.  They think that the question may be hidden on the paper.  (When they notice that there are different kinds of light sources, they realize that knocking out the normal light may bring up UV or IR light.)

Eventually, it breaks down to everyone at odds with each other.  One is even able to trick several others into breaking the rules.  Various facts come out about the remaining people, like potential motivations for applying for the job.  It turns out that the company they’re applying to makes a drug for a disease that’s otherwise untreatable.  Whoever gets the job will get a nice employee discount.

I don’t want to go much further into plot because to do so would ruin the movie.  It’s a very simple movie that uses a simple premise very well.  Ten people in one room, eight of which are competing for a job.  There’s no gore and not much violence.  I’ve always felt that it doesn’t take a very elaborate plot or a huge budget to make a good movie and this movie is proof.  The eight main characters play well off of each other.

You might think that the movie relies too heavily on the test.  I found myself wondering if they’d figure out what the question was, which is a great way to hook people in.  Yes, I know that you need interesting characters; the movie does have them.  You feel more empathy for some than others, I’ll admit.  Even though there was a timer in the room with the test takers, I didn’t really find myself counting down to the end of the movie.  For me, it was more a question of whether or not someone would get the job or if everyone would get disqualified.  (There was no guarantee that anyone would get the job.)

I don’t recall how I found out about the movie.  I think it was through the coming attractions.  When I first heard about it, I knew I had to watch it just to see if they could pull it off.  They did.

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