The Experiment * * 1/2

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Director: Paul T. Scheuring.
Screenplay: Paul T. Scheuring.
Starring: Adrien Brody, Forest Whitaker, Cam Gigandet, Clifton Collins Jr., Ethan Cohn, Fisher Stevens, Travis Fimmel, Lavell “David Banner” Crump, Jason Lew, Damien Leake, Maggie Grace.

Once again, a brilliant foreign language movie (“Das Experiment“) is given an English language remake and once again, it fails to do the original justice in any shape or form. If any positives are to be taken from this, then a major one would be it serving as a reminder of how good director Olivier Hirschbeigel’s 2001 German film was.

Strapped for cash in order to travel to India with his girlfriend (Maggie Grace), gentle mannered political activist Travis (Adrian Brody) decides to take part in a behavioural psychological experiment whereby 20 or so men are chosen to live in a makeshift prison for two weeks. Each of them will assume either the role of guard or inmate but once the doors are locked and they are left to their own devices, things begin to spiral out of control.

The fact that this went straight to the DVD shelf when released says it all really. From the offset there are shades of a made for television appearance. This doesn’t last for the entirety of the film but the standards don’t rise very far above it and the voyeuristic nature of the story will appeal to fans of reality TV shows like “Big Brother“.
It’s strengths, unsurprisingly, lie in the performances; Brody is an excellent leading presence and fine support is delivered by a towering Forest Whitaker but the inclusion of Maggie Grace’s love interest is entirely unnecessary, adding little to no substance to the film and could have been completely dropped without it making any difference whatsoever. In retrospect, it’s a lazily written script that’s the films biggest downfall. Where the original instilled a sense of realism, this version just seems staged. The premise is still thoroughly intriguing though and all the more so, with the knowledge that it was based on a real experiment that took place in 1971 at Stanford University before it all got out of hand.
It’s decent enough to pass an hour an half of your time but don’t expect anything special. It’s the performances that make it worthwhile but overall, it’s just another example of a completely unnecessary remake.

If anyone is unfamiliar with the events or the original German film then this film will go down nicely. However, it’d be wise to seek out Hirschbeigel’s version instead.

Mark Walker

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26 Responses to “The Experiment * * 1/2”

  1. I remember seeing this and not being very positive about it. Still have to see the original…

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  2. In completely unfamiliar with these films. Sounds like I should hunt down the original. Interesting cast here – two really good actors and Oscar winners whose careers haven’t quite blossomed as expected. I still like both though and its a shame this film didn’t pan out.

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    • I feel the same about the leads Keith. Excellent actors and they are both good in this but seriously, get the original German film. It’s well worth a look. Forget about this one.

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  3. Why watch the pale copy when you con go for the original? I’ll look for the German version.

    Thanks for the heads-up.

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  4. daveackackattack Says:

    I actually have the original movie Mark. Good stuff. Based on the actual Stanford prison experiment in the ’60’s. Here’s a good doc on the subject. A great companion piece.

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    • Excellent Dave. I’ll swing by on that link when I have time. The original “Das Experiment” is a brilliant film though isn’t it? I loved it but I can’t say the same about this remake.

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  5. I try to stay clear of Forest Whitaker films…but he just keeps sucking me back hoping he may redeem himself, never happens.

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    • I don’t really mind Whitaker. He was great in the Last King of Scotland and quite good in this film but it probably is wise to steer clear of this one and check out the original.

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  6. I don’t like to judge a book by its cover but that poster/DVD cover or whatever it is is just atrocious! I’m not aware of either of these but I remember doing research on the Stanford Prison experiment so it sounds pretty interesting. The original at least.

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  7. I do like Adrien Brody and Forrest Whitaker. It’s a shame this movie turned out to be yet another bad English remake.

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    • Like so many before it and likely after after it Steph. Remakes tend never to do a film justice. I would check out the original German film though. Thats definitely worth investing in.

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  8. I’ve never even heard of this Mark. Well suffice to say I probably not going to see this one.

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  9. I wanted to see this because the Prison Break creator had something to do with it, and Im a huge PB fan. You dont make it sound very enticing dude!! :)

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  10. Ouch! I feel as if I’m on a deserted island here. I certainly didn’t feel duped by the “Prometheus “trailer mainly because I really like the film. But granted, some people did go in with unrealistic expectations and the trailer fed that.

    Now I have to say I didn’t think that “The Bourne Legacy” was a bad film, disappointing but not bad. And I live “Star Wars: Ep. 1″. It’s by far the weakest of the series but it has some great moments. I also like “MI: 2″. It’s a John Woo action picture through and through (Toned down for sure). I had a lot of fun with that.

    Anyway, GREAT post! I love posts that prompt good conversation. You also make some good points about trailers. Some are great, some stink, and some give away way too much. But I’m addicted to them. :)

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  11. 2.6?!?!? I am officially stunned! :D

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  12. Ack!!! I’ve avoided each nominated performance! Sounds like lucky me! LOL!!!!

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