Hey folks, Valkor here. Question of the day: How far would you go to get something that you really, really want, be it a job, a cure for a disease, or to be the next American Idol? In this next film that's getting the Val-treatment, we take a look at a group of people who are plopped into such a situation and we discover what they would do and far they would go to get what they want. Check it out, it's "Exam"!
Exam centers on a group of eight highly qualified candidates on their way to obtaining the ultimate position in a very respectable company. This particular group was chosen because they have gone the furthest in the selection process. Now they've been secluded in a room, with no windows, only one armed guard standing by and a camera that watches their every move. Enter The Invigilator (Colin Salmon), who gives the candidates three specific instructions - 1) Do not leave the room for any reason 2) Do not try to communicate with himself or the armed guard and 3) don't spoil your paper. The candidates have 80 minutes to complete the process and they can voluntarily leave should they choose to do so – with no turning back. When instructed the group turn over their paper only to find that it's completely blank. Now no one is sure what to do. But one of the applicants, Chinese (Gemma Chan), decides to write on her sheet, which gets her automatically and forcefully thrown out of the room (can't spoil your paper). With only seven left, the group discovers that they can talk amongst themselves without disqualification. Together they try best to decipher exactly where the question is, thinking it's hidden somewhere on the paper, using means located within the room (light, liquid, fire, whatever). Since candidates can talk to one another, they address one another with names based on stereotypes and ethnicities starting with White (Luke Mably), Black (Chukwudi Iwuji), Brown (Jimi Mistry), Blond (Nathalie Cox), Dark (Adar Beck), Deaf (John Lloyd Fillingham), and Brunette (Pollyanna McIntosh). As they attempt to find the question they believe to be hidden in the paper, they gradually begin learning about one another such as their personalities and hidden agendas. And as candidates start getting disqualified, the situation becomes intense… and even violent.
In the end only one will remain the winner. Just who and how, you'll have to see for yourself. Until then, let's get to the TOV Breakdown!
As psychological dramas go, I've seen and enjoyed my share. Exam is no exception. It is in fact one of the most intense thrillers I've seen since Old Boy or even Fight Club. Exam is not a complete mindfuck, but it's one unpredictable puzzle of a film. As the candidates determine just what that one question is, their situation starts to grow precarious, unsettling and you'll never know what one character will do to the other. The pacing of the film is brisk and it never gets boring, even considering that the entire film takes place in one room; it's all fueled by great action and smart dialogue, building up to one climatic ending. The cast, I think, has done an incredible job, with Luke Malby leading the pack as the dick you love to hate "White". I truly, truly hated his character and all his dickish moves; I just wanted to reach in the screen and strangle him. Colin Salmon has a cool about him, but he also has a powerful presence… when on screen. And as for the rest of the cast, I will say everyone definitely brought their A-game. Overall, for a film that was produced on a small budget with a bunch of no name actors, and debut of director Stuart Hazeldine, I'll end it by saying "job well done".
I didn't care for the ending all that much. I thought it went on longer than need be and it should've been cut at a certain point (Not gonna get into too many spoilers here). Actually it's at this point where the film begins to deflate and you wonder why this particular ending was chosen.
You're really, REALLY gonna hate White. Also you'll smack yourself silly when you realize just what that one question is these folks are trying to solve.
Exam is a powerful, sinister, yet very entertaining piece of film that will latch on to you until the very end. And speaking of endings, don't let my feelings about how it ends dissuade you from enjoying this flick. Trust me you won't wanna miss it. And out of TOV 5 stars, I'm giving Exam a 4 and it's been Valkor tested and TOV Approved!