The Experiment (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
August 29, 2010 by Dennis Amith
“The Experiment” is a gripping film featuring a wonderful performance by Adrien Brody and Forest Whitaker. Unfortunately, its weak storyline gives no satisfying closure like its German 2001 predecessor “Das Experiment” and comes of like a film that feels as if it was rushed.
Images courtesy of © 2010 Experiment Film Holdings LLC. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: The Experiment
FILM RELEASE DATE: 2010
DURATION: 96 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: R (For Strong disturbing violence including a rape, language, some sexual content and nudity)
RELEASE DATE: September 21, 2010
Directed by Paul Scheuring
Based on the novel “Black Box” by Mario Giordano
Adaptation from the film “Das Experiment” by Mario Giordano, Christoph Darnstadt, Don Bohlinger, Oliver Hirschbiegel
Screenplay by Paul Scheuring
Executive roducer: Matty Beckerman, Anthony Gudas, Stephen Hays, John Michaels, Al-Saadi Qadhafi, Jim Siebel
Produced by Marty Adelstein, Maggie Monteith, Scott Nemes, Dawn Parouse
Associate Producer: Cathy Beckerman, Verenice Buerling, Anette Czagany, Kevin Raymond
Line Producer: Joel Sadilek
Music by Graeme Revell
Cinematography by Amy Vincent
Edited by Peter S. Elliot
Casting by Ann Wilkinson, Ronnie Yeskel
Production Design by Gary Frutkoff
Art Direction by Jeff Schoen
Set Decoration by Barbara Cassel
Costume Design by Yasmine Abraham
Adrien Brody as Travis
Forest Whitaker as Barris
Cam Cigandet as Chase
Clifton Collins Jr. as Nix
Ethan Cohn as Benjy
Fisher Stevens as Archaleta
Travis Filmmel as Helweg
David Banner as Bosch
Jason Lew as Oscar
Damien Leake as Govenor
Maggie Grace as Bay
Rod Majorano as Rex
Oscar® winners Adrien Brody (Best Actor, The Piano, 2002) and Forest Whitaker (Best Actor, The Last King of Scotland, 2006) star in this mind-shattering psychological thriller from the creator of TV’s “Prison Break.” Selected to participate in a two-week research project, a group of men agree to play inmates and guards in a simulation of life within a state prison. But as the 24 volunteers slip deeper into their roles, power corrupts, fears escalate and the experiment spins horribly out of control. Cam Gigandet (Twilight), Clifton Collins Jr. (Crank: High Voltage) and Maggie Grace (TV’s “Lost”) co-star in this intensely shocking film.
In 1971, one of the most well-known and controversial psychological experiment’s in the United States was conducted by Stanford University Professor Dr. Philip Zimbardo. The experiment was known as the Stanford prison experiment and 24 undergraduate students participated in mock experiment in which they would play the role of guards and prisoners. The goal was to promote disorientation, depersonalisation and deindivisualisation.
The students playing the guards adapted to their role rather quickly and ended up humiliating, hurting and causing emotional and physical trauma to the students playing the prisoners and Dr. Zimbardo played a passive role and being a scientist and not stopping the experiment until the woman he was dating confronted him for passively allowing unethical acts to be performed under his direct supervision.
The experiment lasted only six days and after the study was completed, the Dr. submitted his findings to the U.S. House Committee on Judiciary.
Because of his experiment, the findings were quite important but also highly debated. What made the students playing the guards become abusive and oppressive? Was it because there were no clear instructions? Were the guards playing a part of what they felt should be the role of a guard? And this was within six days of the experiment that all hell broke loose.
This experiment was covered in the novel “Black Box” by Mario Giordano and the novel would receive a 2001 German adaptation titled “Das Experiment”. The film is similar to 1971 the real Stanford Prison Experiment but in this case, the scientists play a passive role in observation of the inhuman and the guards not only become power hungry and oppressive to the prisoners but they go even further by killing.
In 2010, the American remake titled “The Experiment” which is not necessarily a remake of the German hit film “Das Experiment” but inspired by the film and the Stanford Prison Experiment and is directed by “Prison Break” TV show writer Paul Scheuring (who also wrote the screenplay adaptation) and a film that will be direct-to-video starring Oscar winners Adrien Brody (“King Kong”, “The Darjeeling Limited”, “The Brothers Bloom”, “Predators”) and Forest Whitaker (“Criminal Minds”, “Vantage Point”, “The Shield”, “The Last King of Scotland”).
“The Experiment” revolves around 26 men who participate in a psychological study in which they can earn $14,000 if they continue to play the role of the prisoner and the guards for two weeks. The study is done by Dr. Archaleta (played by Fisher Stevens) who is trying to examine how aggressive behavior is played out in an artificial prison setting.
For Travis (Adrien Brody), Barris (Forest Whitaker) and the others, they are all doing it for the money and hope to play this out quickly and get their $14,000 by the end of the experiment. But there are rules that the guards and the prisoners have to follow and if there are any violence or problems, the cameras which are watching them will turn red and the experiment is over and no one gets their money.
As everyone plays their role of prisoners and the guards on the first day, things begin to unravel as one incident features one of prisoners accidentally sending a basketball flying to the face of a guard. The men playing the guards feel they need to show the prisoners that they are in charge and thus, make them do push ups to let them know they are not to be messed with.
During dinner, the prisoners are not so happy with the food that they eat but according to the rule, the guards must enforce that the prisoners eat everything in their tray. But they don’t and following Travis’ lead, they start rebelling by dumping their food in the trash or throwing the food at the guard.
Once again, the prisoners get rowdy and joke that the prison is their house and the guards are discourage. Barris tells his fellow guards that they may not be able to hurt them but they can definitely scare them and to punish Travis (who they feel is the ring leader), the guards start spraying everyone with a fire extinguisher and grabbing Travis and handcuffing him to the jail.
Going on day two of the experiment, one of the prisoners named Benjy who is diabetic, needs his sugar and is so weak that he doesn’t show up for the morning name call. This sets the Baris and the other guards off and when they check on him, he is seen lying weak on his bed and asks for a candy bar from his bag but unfortunately, the guards don’t allow it and try to force him to go back in the line. Travis tries to defend him and ends up defying Barris in front of everyone and now Barris is upset that once again, Travis is undermining his authority and now he Travis must be punished.
Barris and the guards get Travis, ties him up on a chair, shaves off all his hair, kicks him to the ground and begins urinating on him and encourages the guards to do the same to break him down.
And Barris feels that the scientists are not doing anything to stop them. If there is a problem with Benjy, then the scientist will step in. But the problem is, whoever is observing the prisoners are not doing anything about the violence and slowly, the guards start to commit more oppression and violence towards the prisoners under the close of the cameras and the oppression and torture of the prisoners continue.
The people participating as prisoners know that this experiment is going wrong and are hoping that the people behind the experiment will heed their call for help and stop the experiment, but will they?
“The Experiment” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1) and the picture quality is wonderful. You can see the detail in the skin of the faces of people, the stubble, the tattoos and anguish on the faces of the characters being oppressed. The majority of the film is shot indoors but you do see vibrant colors more during Travis’ dreams as he imagines Bay in India and we see the colors of the reds really pop. But for the most part, the majority of the film is shot in a dreary prison set.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Experiment” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and although the majority of the film is dialogue-driven, there are some scenes in which we can hear the prisoners screaming at the guards to people getting beaten up and hit. Even one scene with a piercing high noise when Travis is apprehended and about to be choked by one of the guards. Overall, the film presents crisp, clear dialogue and music by Graeme Revell (“Pineapple Express”, “Days of Wrath”, “Eleventh Hour”, “The Forgotten”).
Unfortunately, “The Experiment” comes with no special features but does have BD-Live capability for those who want to register their Blu-ray for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment points or download trailers.
“The Experiment” is a riveting film featuring a wonderful performance by Adrien Brody and Forest Whitaker. Forest Whitaker really does a great job of playing the bible-reading, calm and collected Baris who then changes and becomes this abusive and power hungry man.
Both men do carry this film as the performances are needed because unlike “Das Experiment” or even the original true experiment that the film is inspired on, director and screenwriter Paul Scheuring unfortunately chooses to focus more on the inhumane practice of the guards as we see them not only become oppressive but also rapist, murders and for the most part, seeing good people turning bad.
We know that this was the case in the original Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971 and the film does a great job showing that. The problem is that they take the doctor and scientists out of the equation.
With the real Stanford story, we know about the Dr. and him playing a passive role until he is confronted by his date who has ethical concerns in regards to his experiment and then seeing how he lost control over his own experiment and things gone awry. In “Das Experiment”, we see how the guards become oppressive but Dr. and scientist in this film have an integral role in which everything plays out in the end.
In “The Experiment”, we see Dr. Archaleta briefly in the film. His job is to study the participants who will be playing the police and prisoners but the storyline goes nowhere with it, especially around the character Dr. Archaleta. Why would this man allow one to be suffering from diabetes and having him grow sick? Why would the Dr. allow such brutality to happen. Yes, it happened in the Stanford test and “Das Experiment” but there are scientists that have their own reasoning and in this case, it was getting out of hand that murder, rape and other inhumane things were taking place and yet, no one stopped it.
The whole chilling experiment was covered well in the film but I felt the storyline was not well-conceived, felt a bit rushed and the ending was not at all satisfying. “Das Experiment” shows the repercussions towards the scientists who have let this experiment grow chaotic, inhumane and deadly and allows the viewer to put a face to the people behind the experiment. With “The Experiment”, I was not satisfied how they chose to end the film and it was simply a lazy way to end the film and destroyed any potential of the film to achieve a thrilling ending like “Das Experiment”.
The Blu-ray release does sport very good picture quality and the dialogue is clear and understandable but for a newer film, was shocked that there were no special features at all. It would have been wonderful for director/screenwriter Paul Scheuring to explain his thoughts on the making of the film especially the ending via an audio commentary but unfortunately, we are not giving anything extra for the film. No interviews, no featurettes…nothing.
Overall, “The Experiment” had so much potential, especially if it was inspired from “Das Experiment”. Even if they did a straight copy of the German film in English, viewers would have enjoyed a thrilling ending and a much more understandable plot. But unfortunately, despite the wonderful performance by Adrian Brody and Forest Whitaker and also the thrilling scenes that involve both men, the film just doesn’t give the viewer any satisfying closure and the Blu-ray release has no special features at all. So, much potential for this film but unfortunately, this release is best as a rental and not a keeper.
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