I’ve not seen 2001’s Das Experiment, although, I’m sure I would love it (and it has a terrific cast). And truthfully, the only reason I’ve had 2010’s The Experiment on my radar for some time now is its leading man, Adrien Brody (whose career continues to mind boggle).
Both films are based on the “Stanford Prison Experiment” conducted in 1971 and their plots appear to be identical. But on to 2010’s version, which is the one I watched. The movie centers around a group of men gathered in a remote building for a behavioral study. They’ve all been promised large sums of cash if they complete the 14 day experiment. They are split in to 2 groups, guards and prisoners, and given a list of rules. Sounds like a recipe for good times, yeah?
As one would imagine, things go bad in a hurry. The men chosen as guards corrupt quickly and completely. While our passive prisoners get mouthy… well, mostly Brody’s character. Guards versus prisoners breaks down to Brody versus Forest Whitaker and hi jinks ensue. Pretty much exactly what you think may happen happens. And that may be my main issue with the film.
At the risk of getting all broken record, I will say 1) I adore Adrien Brody and 2) I revel in a good “throw people together and see what happens” kind of plot. So logic dictates that I would enjoy this. And logic would be right as I enjoyed it quite a bit. There were still points where the plot felt a tad “by the book”, so to speak, and bordered on predictable. The character development was also a bit lacking and what we did receive sometimes felt tacked on. The movie moves along at a speedy pace but I would have gladly traded some of that speed for a glimpse at these men before they were thrown together. All those quibbles aside, the film is pretty successful.
I was pleased at how The Experiment played like a “women in prison” movie, but with dudes. That added to the exploitationy feel of the whole thing. And that’s what it is; a thriller with exploitation elements. It pushed further than I expected, which tickled my fancy. So it goes without saying that I wish it had been “balls out” exploitation. That would have really set the thing apart! More dicks! I mean… not … more dicks.
It is easy to see why this didn’t get a wide release even though it’s higher quality than some of what sits in theaters as I type. Whitaker and Brody are 2 of my favorites and when they are onscreen together, it’s a joy to behold. They both really commit to the mean spirit of this film. I recommend taking a look at this, although I have a sneaking suspicion the German film is better.
Post Script: Adrien has no shirt on throughout much of this movie. I just wanted to share that.