Last night, I experienced the long-awaited and highly anticipated joy of watching Exam, the 2009 writing and directing debut of Stuart Hazeldine. Looking at his earlier work, dabbling in the scripts of such cinematic highlights as Knowing and the remake of the Day the Earth Stood Still, expectations should not have been high, yet due to word of mouth and some decent reviews, I had been looking forward to watching the film for quite some time.
The basic premise, and anything more would spoil the fun, is there are eight candidates from various backgrounds, all applying for a high-end job in a secretive company. They are given 80 minutes to answer a question, and asked to abide by a strict set of rules, with any failure to do so ensuring immediate disqualification. The only hitch is, there appears to be no question to answer.
Billed, not incorrectly, as a blend of the Apprentice, Saw and the Usual Suspects, and largely playing out in real time, Hazeldine keeps us guessing all the way through, carefully introducing new elements and revelations without the feel of being cheated. Praise too is deserving of the cast, all relative unknowns save for Jimi Mistry (2012, the Guru, err... Strictly Come Dancing), and most deserving is Luke Mably as White, somehow making a devious bully sympathetic.
With Exam, set in a future-time of 'soon', Hazeldine poses the question of, in this tough economic climate, how far would you go to get a job? Would you lie? Betray? Cheat? Kill? And would it be worth it in the end? Whatever the answer, and indeed whatever the question, I look forward to Mr. Hazeldine's next effort. Any questions?
See this film if you liked:
The Usual Suspects
Alone, in a darkened room, possibly with a slightly-too-loud ticking clock in the background.