Adar Beck, Gemma Chan, Nathalie Cox, John Lloyd Fillingham, Pollyanna McIntosh, Luke Mably, Jimi Mistry, Chuk Iwuji, Colin Salmon, Chris Carey / Fiction / English
A life or death test. A blank exam paper. A race against time...
Remember the thesis of the hit documentary The Corporation (2003) – that if the modern corporation was analysed according to principles of human behaviour, its profile would be that of a psychopath? Exam takes that idea to its most frightening conclusion, replacing the hidden psycho-puppetmaster of the Saw franchise with a big business empire that uses brutal techniques to identify appropriately unfeeling new employees. The directorial debut of the hot-in-Hollywood British screenwriter Stuart Hazeldine (who worked on Alex Proyas’ recent hit Knowing and the 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still), and based upon a story by Simon Garrity, Exam is a clever psychological thriller with a dark puzzle at its heart. In a dystopian near-future, a group of candidates gather to undertake an examination which offers them the hope of a life-changing job with a shady top-flight multinational company. An invigilator instructs them to answer one simple question, with the caveat that spoiling their papers, talking to the armed guard at the door or leaving the room will prompt instant disqualification. The invigilator leaves the room; the candidates turn over their papers; the sheet is completely blank. So, where or what is the question…? As the members of the group struggle to determine just how they’re meant to prove themselves, it becomes apparent that the job for which they’re competing is not just a job: it’s a rare means of escape from an outside world that is being decimated by a contagious virus. Everyone, therefore, is prepared to give up a little more than the average interviewee – and as tensions erupt amid the group, the stakes they’re playing for get ever higher. Deft in its depiction of a particular breed of ambitious go-getter whose compassion has been battered down by sheer force of will, and confident in its maintenance of a tense race-against-time structure, Exam is an impressively nasty piece of work, and a fresh interpretation of genre conventions. Hazeldine’s next project may require a slightly grander visual scale than this film: he’s working on the script for a planned Hollywood adaptation of Paradise Lost. No wonder he’s intrigued by competitive instincts and grand ambitions…
#1/ Saturday 20 June, 2009 / 08:07 GMTSaw this last night and really enjoyed it. There are lots and lots of influences and it's a good bit of fun spotting them all! Overall it is a very powerful Directorial debut and the first feature for a truly excellent cast. Well done to all concerned. You should be rightly proud.
#2/ Saturday 20 June, 2009 / 13:21 GMTReally enjoyed this last night! As David says above, there's quite a lot of fairly obvious influences but the cast is great, it's shot all very well but has maybe a slightly too cutesy feel-good ending. Looking forward to future films from all envolved!
#3/ Saturday 20 June, 2009 / 13:35 GMTAn interesting film that certainly has a lot to recommend it: good acting, entertaining interplay between the characters and a neat little ending. However I felt there was something lacking and can not quite put my finger on what that is. An impressive debut all the same.
#4/ Saturday 20 June, 2009 / 16:00 GMTYeah, looking back on it , I think the ending was a bit clunky and happened a little too fast but that notwithstanding it was a compelling piece of cinema and will launch a number of successful careers.
#5/ Monday 22 June, 2009 / 10:08 GMTThanks all for your comments. Stu and I were really happy with how the night went, and super chuffed that we have had such a positive response. The festival have chosen to run the film again as part of their "Best of the Fest" on Sunday June 28th at 20:15 so if you have friends of family that couldn't make Friday, let them know that there is another chance to catch our movie. Thanks again all, Gareth, Producer "Exam".
#6 / Monday 13 July, 2009 / 22:33 GMTDefinitely one for The Apprentice fans – an enjoyable and absorbing, but ultimately unsatisfying and throwaway ride. Although I am not sure it was supposed to, the film really doesn’t bear any level of scrutiny; the candidates are too compliant and quick to jump to conclusions (for example, the pill searching) and the ‘bolshy, brash git’ character manages to both die and then recover to perfect health in double-quick, cartoon-only time.
I liked the tongue-in-cheek credulity with which the contestants set about trashing the room before starting on each other, and the final twist at least offered some small level of superficially pleasing emotional pay-off. But as someone who normally needs his wife to explain the plot after the end of each film, even I thought the identity of the ‘mysterious’ CEO was pretty obvious from an early stage. And one final question – why ‘no’ rather than ‘yes’?
Like a lightweight and trashy whizz on an Alton Towers rollercoaster, the premise looked interesting but then somewhat flattered to deceive. An almost-instantaneously-forgettable 6/10
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