They never imagined it would go this far. The dirty techno that plays over the opening scenes suggests that The Experiment is a gritty thriller. After two hours in the company of Oliver Hirschbiegel's superb stomach-tightening film, you'll be in no doubt that it is. The Experiment is a variation on Sam Fuller's Shock Corridor. There, a journalist infiltrated an asylum to solve a murder. Here, a journalist sees temporary imprisonment as an opportunity to quit driving a taxi and return to his career of choice. He knows the experiment isn't kosher, but the evil that's revealed isn't created by the experimenters, but by the human lab rats forced to dictate the processes of incarceration. Ordinary people sign up for the two-week study not knowing if they'll be guards or prisoners. It's a bad idea, because it isn't long before violence erupts. What's even more interesting is that, as it's the German psyche that's the key to the story, so the film also serves as a discussion on the rise and processes of Nazism. The German penchant for following orders and obeying rules is mixed in with base desires for power to give the film's plot direction. The leading performances are effectively rendered, although you may recognize some stock prison movie characters. And, as the film progresses, you might be angered by the coincidences and convenient behaviour that allows the plot to flow smoothly, since they dilute the realism and prevent the film from being the masterpiece it should have been. - Oscar Hillerstrm
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