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Released: June 2009

Director: Stuart Hazeldine

Stars: Colin Salmon, Jimi Mistry, Luke Mably

Certificate: 15

Reviewer: Luke Walkley

A simple plotline that sounded intriguing from the offset, Exam follows 8 candidates, each with a chance of obtaining their dream job at a global corporation. To get the job each one is faced with a single piece of paper, with only their candidate number typed onto it. The invidulator gives them a set of rules and they must find the ‘answer’ to the ‘question’. Sounds simple enough, however none of the candidates know the question and they have 80 minutes to figure it out.

Written, Directed and Produced by one man, Stuart Hazeldine. Exam relies on the Shyamalan ‘twist factor’ the audience knows there will be a moment of sudden shock and clarity, it’s just when and usually to whom will it happen?

Exam is not in the same vain as Saw, which is what one might expect upon first perusal. It is low budget and is based entirely in one room. However Exam does not base its idea around a gore factor, but is clever in its delivery. The concept that somehow a question is there to be answered entices the viewer to attempt to work with the candidates in order to find the answer before their allocated time is up. Despite the lack of any indication as to what the question could be.

The film sells itself as ‘The Apprentice goes to hell’ and to a degree that is an acceptable description, the candidates are out to earn a fantastic job come hell or high water. However, to compare this film to another, the classic fifties film ’12 Angry Men’ is more accurate. Both films are set in one room, each occupant of that room is a complete stranger to each other and yet they all must somehow must learn to trust and cooperate with another in order to achieve the ultimate goal.

While the story is imperative to the outcome, 12 Angry Men enjoyed the acting talents of Henry Fonda among others and thus proved, in the rise of the blockbuster era that great acting results in a great film without the need for a nine figure budget. Exam enjoys a decent level of acting from an almost completely unknown cast, Each bringing a different perspective and talent to the pool of candidates. Where Exam could have failed it succeeds and in a surprisingly effective manner.

The film also enjoys absolutely superb directing from Hazeldine. Each scene is well shot and there is an eerie lighting throughout the film that encapsulates the hostility of the interview room. It may be low-budget but it lacks the choppy editing and hazy camerawork that you may associate with a film of its type.

It only falters in a few areas’; it is not long enough for one. A film that revolves around a task with a deadline of 80 minutes couldn’t obviously be a lot longer, however it seems like the short time span the film has cuts short some of the more interesting parts of each characters back story and whilst intriguing it seemed rushed. This is also the case with the conclusion, while clever and well crafted, the ending comes about all too soon after too much feet dragging. If an extra five minutes had been granted to the aforementioned flaws then Exam may have been considered a complete triumph.

Exam is by no means a spectacular movie, it is flawed but it is acceptable. While not jaw dropping, it is certainly memorable and worth the 85 minutes of your time. All in all, Exam is a clever piece of film making and certainly poses all the right questions.

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