Friday 1 October 2010

Review: Exam

Year: 2009 (2010 UK Theatrical Release)
Director: Stuart Hazeldine
Screenplay: Simon Garrity, Stuart Hazeldine
Starring: Colin Salmon, Jimi Mistry, Luke Mably

"I don't know if I liked that movie" says my girlfriend before she departs my house. I know the feeling. It's been over an hour since the credits of Exam rolled and I'm still undecided,.. Is it shot well? Yes. It is uniformly smart in it's appearance. Has it got a interesting premise? Yep. With the overall film feeling like a nod to the Canadian sci-fi flick Cube, the film has got a hook that could more than reel in a few genre fans. What about conflict? Sure. It has some moments of tension and the film does it's best with its one room local. But what was it that distanced me so much from this film not to embrace it enough even for thinking about a second viewing.

My answer is investment. As the film's plot delves deeper and deeper, I found myself becoming more frustrated. The stakes are high, but the characters are just too stoic, too unapproachable, 2-dimensional. It's hard to care about any of them as Hazeldine's film paints every character the same shade of grey. At no point do you feel one of the characters tugging at your emotions, or if they do, it's not enough for you to feel good/bad if your feeling of the outcome is right/wrong. As the characters flip flopped between being good or bad, at no point did I find myself actually caring about the outcome of these people. The loudest character is played ably enough by Luke Mably but the character is a prick, and not even a charming one at that.

I'd love to say more about the acting, but the combination of stiff dialogue and little known actors (expect 2 fairly standard displays by Colin Salmon and Jimi Mistry) do nothing to really win me over, and it's essential in a film like this to have your thoughts and apprehensions pulled all over the place by the characters actions. The lack of this tug of war game allows the film to coast on rails from it's eyebrow raising beginning when you hear all the rules, to the eventual outcome. In a film like this where all the characters are labeled by their most basic aspects of their character (the black guy is called black etc.) why wasn't more of this brought up to create a sense of tension? It could have been possible.

Unfortunately, there isn't enough in Exam for me to warrant a recommendation for everyone other than those who are really into those oddball features you wander past while looking for something else. The interest within the actual film is almost the same level as when you pick up the cover, scan the back, shrug and replace.