A short list of eight candidates, four men and four women, have reached the final examination stage for an unelaborated high station job at a sinister pharmaceuticals research company and enter an examination room that resembles a high-tech bunker. They are informed by the invigilator (Colin Salmon) that the successful candidate must answer one question with one answer and that they must not break any of the rules accompanying the test or they will be ejected from the question room by the silent armed guard (Chris Carey). The clock starts and the candidates have eighty minutes to complete their answer but upon turning over their papers they discover that their question papers are blank. Not only must they unravel the answer, they must also discover what the question is?
As the early minutes pass one candidate decides to scrawl on her answer paper the reason why she should be selected in the hope that this will be picked up by the examiner on camera, unfortunately it breaks one of the rules of the exam: That entrants should not try to communicate with the cameras. As a result, she is forcibly ejected from the room by the guard. Realising that the rules stipulated that the candidates must not try to make contact with either the invigilator, cameras or guard, the group reason that they may be able to communicate with each other. Cock-sure cockney, ‘White’ (Luke Mably) issues racially offensive and discriminatory monikers to both himself and his fellow job applicants (in a nod to RESERVOIR DOGS) that draw upon their appearances.
Professional gambler, ‘Brown’ (Jimi Mistry) is content to let the bigoted White do most of the testing after suggesting risky solutions to the problem, whilst Nigerian ‘Black’ (Chukwudi Iwuji) comes up with a series of scientific tests to the solution. ‘Brunette’ (Pollyanna McIntosh) is more concerned with solving the puzzle via psychology and Blonde (Nathalie Cox) feels they should be more humane to each other and work as a team. The final woman in the group, ‘Dark’ is the most intellectual of the contestants, and the seemingly autistic ‘Deaf’ appears to know more than the others and selfishly used as a stooge by White in pursuit of winning the job outright.
A set of mind games ensues as each of the group attempt to avoid elimination from the exam room, but as the minutes tick away the darker sides of their personalities emerge and it becomes a case of how far would they each go to in order to achieve their ambition.<
Director Stuart Hazeldine’s minimalist approach to the film involving a single set and the reliance on dialogue to advance the plot, adds a claustrophobic aura of intensity to proceedings similar to Luis Piedrahita and Rodrigo Supeña’s FERMAT’S ROOM (aka La habitación de Fermat). Viewers expecting the violent thrills and chills associated with the similarly themed CUBE and its sequels will be disappointed and if you can forgive EXAM’s unoriginal ending, this tightly edited film is worth catching.
Carl T. Ford
Directed by Stuart Hazeldine
English Language / UK / 2009 / 82 minutes / Colour / Rated 15
Region 2 DVD / Blu-Ray UK PAL
Release date June 7th, 2010