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A good dramatized telling about arguably the most controversial psychological experiment ever done
This movie is about arguably the most controversial psychological experiments ever done, which generated a lot of attention in the media in that time. It is a dramatized version of the experiment that has a thought provoking aspect to it. This horrifying drama/thriller is a heart breaker and is told with a slow pace which gives you enough time to absorb the events that happen in the movie.
The movie starts with three professors who interview a few student to participate on their 2 week experiment. The professors rented a few rooms and a hallway at Stanford University to simulate a prison. The selected group of student are chosen based on their mental history and their ability to endure mental setbacks. Half of the students were chosen to be guards and half were chosen to be prisoners. The professors behind the experiment have had a camera installed in the hallway so they can monitor everything that is happening. At the beginning everything seems under control. But it doesn't take long before everything begins to escalate.
The movies goes straight to the point fast. The students are getting paid so they are doing what they are told to do. The guards must present authority and the prisoners must be obedient. However, the students playing the guards want more and are creating their own bully characters during the experiment. The guards are careless and are humiliating the prisoners most of the time, which make this movie hard to watch. The first and second act are done with great subtlety. The mental torturing of the prisoners serves a purpose and isn't just for shock value. The professors who are watching the proceedings are all having different opinions about the proceedings that are happening and are starting discussions about morality, motivation, behavior and boundaries. The transition from different perspectives on this experiment is done really well by director Kyle Patrick Alvarez.
Tim Talbott does a great job with his writing. The thought provoking aspect in his writing is one of the strongest points in this film. The second act of the film builds up really slow to compensate for the small first act. It is unsettling to watch the guards in their mistreating behavior, while the professors don't interfere. There is no motivation for the guards to act the way they are behaving, except for the fact that they can.
A big reason why the film is hard to watch is because of the solid acting of the whole cast. The young actors portray their characters in such a convincing way, that it feels real. This movie has a lot of heating emotional moments where the actors can show their full potential. This film will be a great addition to their resume. Ezra Miller and Tye Sheridan get special mentions because both get a lot of screen time, and they show that they can carry a movie. They show why they are one of the Hollywood's biggest talents.
Even though the first and second act are solid in every aspect of filmmaking, the movie loses its touch in the last act. I won't go in to what specifically happens, but the subtlety of the storytelling disappears and the slow pace kills the momentum of the climax. The last act relies too much on shock value and the suspense is diminished because of the repetitive scene transitions in the last moments of the film.
Overall, this is a solid movie that creates discussion between groups with different standpoints of this subject. The acting is phenomenal by the talented cast and there is a clear direction. The slow pace is a tool well used in the first two acts and adds to the suspense the director wants to communicate. Even though the film falls apart in the last act, I would recommend this movie to watch. But only to the ones with a strong stomach.
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