“ Genre: Crime & Thriller / Theatrical Release: 2010 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Stuart Hazeldine / Actors: Luke Mably, Colin Salmon, Jimi Mistry, Pollyanna McIntosh ... / DVD released 2010-06-07 at Sony Pictures Home Ent. UK / Features of the DVD: Colour, PAL, Subtitled „
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Released: 2009, Runtime: 101 minutes, Genre: Mystery, Thriller.
Film only review.
Eight candidates for a prestigious job have been given eighty minutes to complete an exam designed to test them and set the ideal candidate apart from the rest. They need to answer just one question. Easy, right? Except no one knows what the question is, they must follow a strict set of guidelines in order to find out what the question is and avoid being disqualified at all costs. One question. One answer. One job vacancy.
This is more than your average job interview.
I read a review about this film and the review had mentioned the 'question' but not what the 'question' was- curiosity ate away at me and knowing the film was available to view on netflix I sat down to watch this film at the earliest opportunity. Whilst the review hadn't raved about the film, curiosity was my motivation for choosing this film and curiosity is what got me through it. There were times throughout this film where I wanted to give up and watch something else but wanting, or rather needing to know what that ruddy 'question' was and what the equally enigmatic answer was kept me going.
I had never heard of this film before and I think that this is mainly due to the films low budget and low calibre actors. The only one I recognised was 'Jimi Mistry' and that was because he has been in Eastenders. I didn't regard any of the actors/actresses in this film as particularly outstanding. There was a general stiffness and unrealistic quality to all of the performances in this film. The script was obviously designed to replicate real conversation but it sounded far too casual and like the writer wrote it once and decided it was good enough.
The film aims to explore human nature and psyche and asks the audience to question what they would do in a similar situation. I ordinarily love films like this and whilst it did generate a bit of thought it didn't keep me gripped-there were times when I just wanted to turn over and watch something interesting. I wanted this to be a psychological thriller like the films in my recent reviews, Shutter Island, Buried, Saw etc. but sadly this film does not even remotely compare to other films in its genre. The revelation of the question, the bit I had been praying was amazing left me disappointed. I wanted an 'aha-very clever' moment, what I actually got was a 'oh' followed by a disgruntled 'hummm' noise. It wasn't worth the wait.
There are moments of absurdity in this film where things that would obviously not be allowed to happen in a job interview happen but in the films defence there are references to the outside world that indicate the setting for this film is a world different to our own, although that is never elaborated on and these references can be easily missed. The film has been compared to 'Saw'. I cannot see the connection. There was one part of this film that I found disturbing but I found this film far from gory. The film is set entirely in one room, the exam room. Some films can pull this off with clever storylines, quality acting and a great writer. This film had none of these things and therefore was disappointing. The general feeling I got from this film was that the people involved thought 'that'll do'. The concept is good and the references to the outside world were interesting and I feel with a bit of effort this could have been good but it just felt like no one could be bothered.
Overall I am glad I watched this film to satisfy my curiosity but I wouldn't recommend this film. It was like watching a bad television adaptation from decades ago and I am truly very sorry if any of you have to sit down and watch this to find out what the question/answer is. Truly sorry because it's 101 minutes of your life that you won't get back.
I watched this film at the weekend after my parents recommended it to me a few weeks ago. The plot is based on a recruitment selection process for a prestigious company, but this is a selection process with a difference. Eight candidates for a highly sought after job are about to sit an exam. In the room, the invigilator reads the instructions, which he says they are not allowed to write down, and he can only say them once. They have a piece of paper on their desk, and he says there is one question, and one answer before them. He then sets the clock to allow them 80 minutes, and then leaves the room, leaving them to get on with it in the presence of a guard.
After the exam invigilator had left the room, and the candidates looked at their papers, they realise that the papers are blank and do not contain any questions. At first, I did worry that we were going to sit there for 80 minutes watching a room of confused people staring at a piece of paper. After a while, however, one of the candidates speaks up, and points out that the rules of the exam did not preclude them from communicating. The candidates give each other nicknames, as they don't have time to get to know each other, but by collaborating, they try to work together to figure out the question....and the answer.
This was a really unusual film, and one that managed to capture my imagination and hold my attention throughout. I find it very easy to get confused or distracted during films, in a way that doesn't happen when I read a book. I don't know why but my mind wanders easily, and I also struggle to relate to anything which requires me to suspend belief, so it takes something out of the ordinary to draw me in and hold my attention. Amazingly, this film managed to do that despite the fact the entire film is based in one small room. I did wonder if it might be boring, but it was far from it.
The unusual thing about this film is that it is more of a "problem solving" analytical film than anything else, although I'm aware this isn't actually a genre. It has a little bit of action, some human emotion, very little humour, but mostly, you are trying to figure out the answer to the conundrum. Admittedly, the characters are all fairly ambitious and hard-faced, making them difficult to connect with or warm to, but this doesn't seem to matter. The thing that captures your attention isn't so much who will get the job, but what the question is.
Not liking the characters doesn't reflect on the acting skills in the film. I thought the characters were convincing enough, but I think the plot of the film means it would only work if the characters were all out for themselves, as each one has limits on how far they will go to get the job of their dreams. Think "The Apprentice" but on a life-or-death scale. We don't really get to know the characters particularly well either, as the film is set over 80 minutes rather than over months or years. But again, this doesn't matter, and in fact is quite refreshing as we don't even know the names of each character, and are told very little about their circumstances. There are no big names in this film in terms of actors, in fact I didn't recognise anyone in it so rather than type out a list of names I've never heard of, I would recommend visiting http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1258197/ for a full cast list.
The ending of the film (don't worry, no spoilers here!) is quite surprising and one of those penny dropping moments, I was really hoping the end would be sensible having sat through an hour and half of the film, and I was pleased to see there were no loose ends or ridiculous curveballs thrown in. It really is quite obvious when you know the answer, and I was kicking myself for not realising what the challenge was. Obviously some of the scenes in between where the characters are trying to outwit each other, and some of them will go further than others in terms of backstabbing, require a little "going with the flow" and I had to stop myself from saying "A real company would never allow that to happen", because otherwise it would be a very dull film! But overall, I found this film to be realistic and believable.
Overall, I would recommend this film as something that will grab your attention, and it's a little different to anything I've seen before so it was nice to mix things up on our film night at home.
(Review also appears on Ciao under the username Gingerkitty)
The 'Apprentice goes to hell' quote on the cover seems very apt - this is a job interview like no other. Eight candidates are sat in a room, and the invigilator runs through some cryptic rules and tells them there is only one answer. As the group begin to test the rules, it begins to show exactly how far they are willing to go to land their dream job.
The fact that the entire film is set in just one room (bar some shots of the candidates preparing themselves) is a highly exciting premise. Even though not a lot seems to 'happen' in the film, it still feels exciting and fast-paced. The opening of the film has a feel of 'Japanese horror', and there's no real soundtrack to the movie. Instead, all the focus is on the candidates and their psyches, and some really interesting group dynamics.
I imagined the film to be a horror, but it's actually far more of a psychological thriller. Some aspects are genuinely disturbing, and as the movie goes on the audience discover more and more about the characters, bringing some revelations. Obviously very low budget, Exam shows that you don't have to spend millions to make an engaging, thrilling movie.
I came across this whilst browsing on Amazon a little while back and thought it looked interesting. I hadn't heard of it before so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect; luckily, this flick made for reasonably worthwhile watching that stood out from the crowd.
Exam falls within the thriller genre, possibly psychological thriller, and was directed by Stuart Hazeldine (this is the first and only film he's directed as far as I'm aware). On the sleeve it reads: 'How far would you go to win the ultimate job', and 'The apprentice goes to hell' as the lines to intrigue you into watching the film. There are also two 4-star reviews, so these tempted me to give it a go.
The premise is fairly straightforward. 8 candidates have made it through to the final stages of the selection process for a job with one of the most prestigious, secretive, big-wig corporations. Their final 'exam' provides them with 80 minutes to answer one question, but what is it? If you're given a blank piece of paper and only cryptic clues that don't seem to help then what would you do? Personally, I'd find it amusing and leave, but these candidates are determined to get the job, and the atmosphere within the exam room is anything but light-hearted.
Through trial and error the candidates try to understand the rules of the exam, coming to the conclusion that they need to read between the lines. It seems that they can talk to each other and move around the room, but they can't 'spoil' their paper (ie write on it). Sounds like a crazy interview process to me, but an interesting one none the less!
As the film progresses things gradually get more sinister and it's obvious that this is quickly becoming a game of survival, of outwitting the other in an every-man-for-himself game. It involves psyching out the other wannabie job applicants to ensure you stay ahead, trying to keep your nerve and your head when the situation is manipulating you in ways you never thought possible.
I won't say any more on what happens except that it's quite ingenius. It's not what I had expected, but then again, I didn't really have any prior thoughts on what could happen. The plot expanded and twisted in ways I couldn't see at first, with the initial confusion over the blank exam paper setting the scene for the viewer to accumulate questions and stay gripped to the film to find out the answers. For me, the ending was perhaps a slight let down. However, I wouldn't say it was as bad as it could have been nor was it particularly easy to guess, so it didn't ruin my overall enjoyment of the film.
This flick stars Colin Salmon as the invigilator, and the candidates include one or two familiar faces such as Jimi Mystery, and Nathalie Cox, Luke Mably and Adar Beck amongst others. Their true identities are hidden, and it seems they're all hiding some truths they don't want on public display let alone their CV, so they refer to each other by observational labels such as 'Deaf', 'Blonde', 'Chinese' and 'Dark'. I would say the cast was fairly strong as characters were fairly well developed and realistic. Granted, the depth could have been greater but the fact that the atmosphere was built up well helped to make up for any lack in that department.
The situation is somewhat confined to the exam room and it's here that most of the confusion, tension and determination builds up. From this is a scale of violence that is escalated, but which is done with a sense of purpose rather than just being thrown in because horror/thriller fans like a bit of blood and gore. It adds an edge to what is quite a realistic and imaginable scenario, where you can begin to empathise with characters or picture yourself being there and wondering how you'd feel or what you'd do. The violence then comes as more of a shock, and although I wouldn't say it was 'scary', you can tell there's a dark and fragile atmosphere surrounding the scenes. Some of it did seem slightly slow and too drawn out, but again, it didn't really ruin my enjoyment of it.
The DVD has some extra features including a commentary, photo gallery, several interviews and a bit of behind the scenes video. In support of a positive review is the fact that it was nominated for a BAFTA, so I'd say this is probably, and unfortunately, quite an overlooked film.
Overall, I would recommend this. It's quirky yet gritty and realistic, combining tension and psychology and mystery in a way that makes in interesting and quite gripping to watch.
DVD released 2010, 97 minutes running time, rated Certificate 15
Selling on Amazon for £3.99
I hadn't heard of Exam until noticing it in my local film store with the tag line, 'The Apprentice goes to Hell.' Being an avid watcher of The Apprentice, this sounded like a movie that was right up my street, especially judging by the image on the DVD cover. However, I have to say I was a little disappointed.
The concept of Exam is that a number of candidates have passed preliminary interviews for what is apparently the job of their dreams, a huge commercial company offering quite an amazing package. When they come to the final interview, all they are asked to do is answer one simple question, not quite as gruelling as they all expected. However, upon turning over their papers all they see is a blank white sheet.
The candidates are given 80 minutes to answer the question, once they have worked out what it is without breaking any of the rules laid out to them at the start. Colin Salmon, Jimi Mistry and Luke Mably lead the cast in this tense thriller.
Now, reading the synopsis on the cover of Exam is a little misleading with it saying each candidate is pushed to the very edge and beyond as they face their deepest and darkest fears. This isn't really the case. For me, the ethic of the film is one of a dog eat dog world. Each candidate wants that job and will do just about anything to get it, some more than others. There is nothing overly fearful or gruesome about the film if that's what you are looking for.
For a lot of the time, it is quite slow, with the characters trying to work each other out and naturally work out the answer to their exam. A good point is that you do find yourself getting absorbed into the film and trying to work out the answer for yourself. However, I think there was a great deal of scope of this film which was really fulfilled but it is clever in parts.
When the film reached the end I couldn't really decide if I liked it or not but had the opinion that it was ok. There was nothing particularly memorable about it but at the same time I wouldn't say it was bad. An easy one to watch if you have a little time to waste
When I first heard about this film, I was very interested, but put off seeing it as they advertised it as "Saw Meets Hell", and I have absolutely no interest in the Saw films due to the unecessary gore and rather flat plotline (don't hate!). This, however, was a pleasant surprise.
~~~DVD BOX COVER~~~
There is probably more gore on the cover than the whole film combined, which I think is a misinterpretation of the film. The plot is extremely clever and very tense, perhaps more psychological than physical, but nonetheless, this cover will most likely attract the general public moreso than other designs.
~~~THOUGHTS ON PLOT~~~
Eight candidates are sat in a room, all competing for the same job, with a piece of paper on the desk. They have Eighty minutes. One Question. One Answer. The simple premise of the plot carries itself through till the end. They have rules though.
1. They cannot speak to the guard or the invigilator. Doing so results in disqualification.
2. They cannot intentionally or accidentally spoil their paper. Doing so results in disqualification.
3. They cannot leave the room. Doing so results in disqualification.
However, upon turning the paper over, the underside of their sheet was blank. The candidates will have to use their wit and each other to solve this "problem".
I have to admit I was immediately drawn to this movie from the start. The way the candidates are introduced at the beginning by close ups. The subtle detail of their movement and their actions already give clues to their character.
Usually I do not comment on camera movement or any of that, but the way the film is shot and the attention to detail is to note. I noticed this from the beginning and it is very subtle. The camera work guides you to look at things that will increase tension and heighten excitement.
Character wise, each candidate has something special about them and they represent different traits. Interestingly, none of their real names are revealed, and instead nicknames were used between them based on appearance. For example, White (Luke Mably) is the arrogant, know-it-all type, whilst Brunette is a cool headed thinker. Their personalities inevitably clash and tension is thrown about, with their actions leading to the disqualification of the candidates one by one.
The plot is extremely clever and I was drawn into it from the first minute. Despite them being trapped in one room, you do not notice the time fly by as you witness their struggle to co-operate as well as their psychological fight to make sense of it all. The tension is extreme and there is a scene where I had to look away because I thought it would be gory, but overall, isn't. There is little or no gore in this, just some strong language and mild violence.
After about an hour and a half of tension (and getting nowhere with the question), there is a momentary peak of climatic action before all is cleverly revealed. The ending was actually really simple, and perhaps does not justify all the action we have seen, but is nonetheless satisfactory. This is one of those films that could potentially leave you gagging for an explanation, but is given in a simple way that is acceptable and understandable to all.
Most of the people in the film I have never heard of, and it only consists of ten cast members as follows:
Adar Beck - Dark
Gemma Chan- Chinese
Nathalie Cox- Blonde
John Lloyd Fillingham- Deaf
Chukwudi Iwuji- Black
Luke Mably- White
Pollyanna McIntosh- Brunette
Jimi Mistry- Brown
Colin Salmon- Invigilator
Chris Carey- Guard
Despite most of them being unknown to me apart from Jimi Mistry, they did a good job being the different characters that they were assigned. It really didn't matter how famous these people were, I enjoyed the film nonetheless. Luke Mably perhaps showed the most heightened emotion despite being a character that I did not like, but he will be remembered for this.
Extra features include commentary, interview with director, producers and cast, as well as behind the scenes footage and photo gallery.
The DVD can be purchased for under £10 but I managed to get one for about £6 on Amazon (was watching the price on there for a while) and it is well worth it!
The simple concept of the film grew to an exciting and tense film that grips you from the beginning, takes you on a thrilling journey and leaves you satisfied till the end. Despite the rather "easy" end, it is acceptable and will not leave you feeling robbed. This is a rare film that is underrated and one I would highly recommend to all.
Eight candidates for a highly sought after job have successfully reached the final stage of the recruitment procedure and have one last stage to pass before they discover who has been the one to pass the process. Invited to take part in an exam they are seated in a room with an armed guard at the door, a gentleman only known to the group as 'the invigilator' stands before them and tells them the various rules that they must adhere to if they have any chance of passing the test. Once ready the exam starts and the candidates have just 80 minutes to answer the question that is on the exam paper - however all is not as it seems... Why are they there and who will pass the exam and get the job that they are all so desperate for? If you enjoy films that pose more questions than answers and have the patience to wait until the final reveal to fully understand what you have just seen then "Exam" is one to check out and makes a refreshing change.
There are elements throughout "Exam" that are reminiscent of similar films that have been done before most notably "Saw" and "Fermat's Room". In Exam you follow eight people who all after the same thing and have already passed a rigorous application procedure to get where they are and although what they did prior to the events taking place in the film are not shown they are implied throughout and much is left to the viewer's imagination. The Spanish film Fermat's Room adopted this premise some years before where strangers are put together and forced to work as a team to discover the secrets that are hiding and like Saw there are a number of rules the group have to follow if they don't want to be eliminated from the procedure. Although familiar Exam does manage to steer its own path so isn't a blatant copy of either of films I have mentioned and relies heavily on the cast of characters that you are introduced to in order to hold your interest throughout the film.
Notable and mentioned in the film itself, the group of eight candidates represent a cross section of society and are made up of 4 men and 4 women. Rather than reveal to one another their real names it is suggested that they adopt a nickname based on the colour of their skin or a physical attribute, therefore stereotypical monikers are given such as "White", "Dark", "Blonde" "Deaf" etc. By not knowing each other's name allows assumptions to be made and although they all know that there is only one job available to be able to answer what is posed to them they have to use each other's strengths to figure out the question. By having an allotted time limit and having already demonstrated the attributes required to take on the position they all so desperately want the desperation and means they will go to to succeed make for compelling if not uncomfortable viewing. When the film is set is not revealed although you can assume that it must be some point in the future from the information that is gradually revealed through the running time and as all the cast are in the same room for the duration of the film with only a chair, desk pencil and paper plus a large stop clock which is counting down at their disposal there are no technological devices that give any sort of indication as to when the action is set.
The film manages to maintain a quick pace despite being character and dialogue driven and as a viewer you discover the secrets at the same time as the characters so there are a number of revelations and surprises that catch you unawares. What the question actually is revealed in a lengthy reveal scene at the end and to fully understand what you have watched you will need to pay attention to throwaway comments that are spoken and seemingly random things that the camera seems to focus on. The film does make sense but the end isn't spoon-fed to the viewer and I would assume that some people will not like the more ambiguous moments, however if you are a fan of twisty films that make you think then "Exam" could well appeal.
Having only being released on the 7th June on DVD and BluRay its emergence onto the film scene seems to be quite low key and despite carrying the tagline "The Apprentice Goes to Hell" the film is by no means gory and doesn't resort to outright horror to grab your attention. It carries a UK 15 certificate rating which is about right, there are some uncomfortable scenes but nothing too bad and really the film is better described as a thriller rather than a horror even though the cover would lead you to believe it is something it isn't.
I enjoyed "Exam" and would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for something a bit different which combines some genuine suspenseful moments with an interesting concept. A little more back story would have fleshed out the characters but overall it was a film that held my interest from start to finish and it offers a gore-free take on other films that have a common premise. Available for £8.49 on Amazon at the moment with a host of extras including commentaries and Interviews my copy came courtesy of Lovefilm so was a rental disc that carried no additional content so I can't comment on how good the extras actually are.
For a British film with a cast of recognisable faces Exam gets a very good 4/5 dooyoo star rating from me, Director, Producer and Writer Stuart Hazeldine manages to gather a small cast of characters who keep you interested in the story and keeps you guessing to the end.
(Originally appeared on ciao under my username)