Thursday, August 24, 2017

Film Review: The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015)

The Stanford Prison Experiment (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed for Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...one of the most suspenseful films of the decade."

Twenty-four male students are selected to participate in a mock prison scenario in the basement of the Stanford psychology building...

The Stanford Prison Experiment is a film based on the actual experiment that took place in 1971. Psychology professor Dr. Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) has planned a special psychology experiment where 24 male students will be chosen to take on randomly assigned roles as prisoners and guards at a mock prison, which is actually just a hallway and three rooms in the basement. All is well until the guards really get into their roles, abusing their power and harming the prisoners. Of course, this leads the prisoners to react in similar ways. However, instead of stopping the experiment, Zimbardo allows it to continue. There isn't much more to say about the plot without spoiling anything or going too deep into the details. It leads to a decent climax, but I kind of wished it had more oomph. It leaves an impression, but it's not so devastating.


The Stanford Prison Experiment is a great film, though. It is a film filled with interesting characters, compelling themes, and unnerving suspense. I'd even say this is one of the most suspenseful films of the decade. It kept my eyes glued to the screen from beginning to end. I think that's something special, especially since this film is mostly reliant on dialogue to conjure its tension. Aside from the suspense, the dramatization of the experiment is also fascinating. Its themes are truly thought-provoking. It entertains (or disturbs), then it makes you want to read more about the actual experiment. The only reason the ending probably failed to resonate was because it was underwhelming compared to the rest of the film. Of course, that's not a big issue since this is based on a real event. It's not like they could rewrite history, right?

The acting was fantastic. Billy Crudup, Michael Angarano, Ezra Miller, and Tye Sheridan were phenomenal. The entire cast, in fact, was great. The film was shot well. I liked the cinematography. The editing was good, too. The film was written by Tim Talbott and directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez. The writing was great, although some characters were underutilized or at times inconsistent. Alvarez performed very well as the director. He delivers a compelling story with incredible suspense without sacrificing style. He pulled great performances from his cast, too.

Overall, The Stanford Prison Experiment is a great film. It is a provocative, suspenseful, and even disturbing movie. It has a few shortcomings, but it ultimately delivers a fantastic experience. If you love dark, haunting dramas, you'll love this one.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and nudity.

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