Exam (2009)

Director: Stuart Hazeldine

Starring: Luke Mably, Chukwudi Iwuji, Jimi Mistry, Nathalie Cox, Adar Beck, Pollyanna McIntosh

“There is one question before you, and one answer is required. If you try to communicate with myself or the guard, you will be disqualified. If you spoil your paper, intentionally or accidentally, you will be disqualified. If you choose to leave this room for any reason, you will be disqualified. Any questions?” (Invigilator, Exam)

Sitting an exam can be stressful at the best of times, but imagine one at a job interview where passing could get you a lucrative job with a top company. Not bad enough? Then imagine how you’d feel if you turned over your exam paper only to find that the question sheet was completely blank.

This weird French chap doesn't have much to say... or does he? Dun dun dunnn

That’s the dilemma facing the eight applicants in Exam, and they have 80 minutes to figure out the answer. There are a few rules in place – if any of them speaks the invigilator or guard, spoils their exam paper or leaves the room they’ll immediately be disqualified.

Within minutes one of the applicants starts writing down why she feels she should get the job and is thrown out for spoiling her paper, making things even more confusing. How do you solve a problem when you don’t know what the question is, and couldn’t write down the answer even if you did?

He was clearly the tallest man they had ever met in their lives

Eventually one of the eight – an arrogant, outspoken chap (Luke Mably) – explains to the rest of the group that there are no rules to prevent them from talking to each other. He assigns everyone stereotypical nicknames – Black, Brown, Brunette and so forth, naming himself White – and starts instructing everyone to try different things. Naturally the others don’t like being bossed around, and turn against White. That’s when things get interesting.

"Now sit there and have a good think about what you've done, mister"

Despite its low budget Exam still manages to look and feel slick throughout. This was clearly a labour of love for director/writer Stuart Hazeldine and it shows. It’s well shot throughout and the score does that rare trick of being effective yet completely unnoticeable at the same time. The only real negatives are some of the performances, most notably from Jimi “East Is East” Mistry who plays Brown and is about as wooden as the desks in the exam room.

Your opinion of Exam is likely to rest on the ending. For some it’s a clever conclusion that comes out of left field, for other’s it’s a silly, almost childish solution that may open up more questions than it answers. Regardless, Exam remains a good example of a film that keep you entertained for an hour and a half using only a single room and eight people.

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