Eight brilliant strangers gathered together in a cold, sterile room. They know each other only by nicknames. White is cocky and manipulative, a leader; Black wears a cross around his neck, and is deceptively sharp; Brown is a cynical, cautious gambler; Blonde is quiet and observant; Brunette is an analytic thinker who won't be pushed around; Dark is a dangerously good psychologist, hiding secrets; Deaf is an introverted, French-speaking outsider. Only seven you say? The eighth, a young Chinese woman, is coldly and quickly expelled by the robotic, armed guard standing at the door, for writing on her paper.
Their task? Answer one question correctly, written on a piece of paper, that will lead to them getting hired by the richest company in the world for a job that will almost certainly lead to fortune and prestige. The only problem? All their papers are blank. To tell any more would be to spoil the plot of one of the most original, ingenious, and tightest independent thrillers I've seen in a good long while, and I CERTAINLY wouldn't want to do that.
EXAM shows the dark side of human nature. It shows the parts we would rather cover up. It takes 8, on the surface decent, humans, and turns them into animals - cheating, manipulating, scheming, and fighting. Like 12 Angry Men if the 12 men were from all over the globe, all brilliant, all desperate, and all willing to kill for a perfect job, Exam uses it's one-location setting to terrible effect, leading to a surprisingly insightful and detailed glance at human nature, knowledge, and the nature of questions.
The acting fits the film perfectly. Director Stuart Hazeldine's international cast brings a wide variety of talents; the acting cannot be faulted, and standout performances come from White, Brown, Deaf, and Colin Salmon's Invigilator. The cinematography and camerawork too, is excellent; cold, slick, and quite often beautiful, it fits the story near-flawlessly. Extra points for a quiet, mood-building score.
Yes, there may be plotholes, but this original screenplay and plot is one of the most original, thought-provoking, and smart I have ever seen. Kudos to the cast and crew for a slick, intense, riveting, and endlessly convoluted psychological thrill ride. This movie is not for everyone, however. It contains little action, and casual viewers may find the film confusing. But if you like psychological thrillers that rely on mind games instead of explosions, independent films, and puzzles, Exam is definitely a must-watch. 4.5 points out of 5 (see what I did there?).