Four men and four women file into a room to take the final exam that will secure one of them a position in the most prestigious company in the world. They sit at eight desks, and before them are eight pieces of paper. An Invigilator (exam proctor) and a security guard walk in. The Invigilator gives them a specific set of instruction. Before them is an exam, there is one question and one answer. They have 80 minutes to complete the exam. If they attempt to speak to him or to the security guard they will be disqualified. If they leave the room for any reason they will be disqualified. If they spoil their paper, accidentally or on purpose, they will be disqualified. Are there any questions? Begin.
There isn't much overt spiritual content, but there are a whole lot of psychological and philosophical dilemmas. This movie doesn't sound like it would be very interesting, but boy is it ever. You see, (and I don't this counts as a spoiler) the exam paper has no visible question. Naturally the people taking the exam start to freak out. Is this some sort of joke? Is the question hidden somewhere? They then start to figure out the loop-holes in the Invigilators instructions, they figure out what they can and can't do to figure out the question and come up with the answer. They have a lot of freedom. The Invigilator tells them at the beginning of the exam" There are no rules in this room, except for our rules. There are no laws, except for our laws," and that certainly seems to be true. Exam asks a disturbing question - what do people become when they're placed in an isolated situation separated from the rules and laws of society. It's answer is both profound and disturbing. Human beings placed in that kind of a situation can only work together for so long before desperation and (in my opinion) their natural sinfulness cause them to make moral compromises. Humans, at bottom, are pretty horrible and this movie definitely makes that clear. The people who walked into that room were successful, intelligent, high achieving individuals - the best of us. At the end of the day, the best of us were broken. horrific caricatures of the people they pretended to be.
Other than that, for spiritual content, there was a character who wore a cross and quoted scripture some. He was not the worst person, but no one was really good all the time completely.
Hahahahahaha. People are horrible, and these horrible people did horrible things to each other. It was disturbing, but this movie was a psychological thriller, so what did you expect? It started out with some punches. Then, a character is bound (deservingly) to a chair and gagged. Another character is tortured in a pretty disturbing scene. She is also tied to a chair while another character interrogates her for information. He uses a piece of paper to cut her legs, and then threatens to cut her eye if she doesn't tell him what he wants to know. One character is sick and has seizures. And, finally, someone gets shot. ***SPOILER*** This character doesn't die because he's shot with a magic medicine bullet that will cure all the world's problems. ***END SPOILER***
I think, though, that the most disturbing thing is not what these people did to each other, but what they didn't do. I mean, there was some feeble protesting when people were being hurt, but mostly people just let things happen. I think we all know the saying 'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil if for good men to do nothing,' and that is certainly true in this movie.
Some men throw innuendos at the girls, but other than that, nothing.
This movie was both disturbing and really good. It built the tension up really well. These people did ridiculously horrible things, but the escalation was done really well. You were sort of like a horrified spectator. You wanted to stop the madness, but you couldn't. And then you wanted somebody else to stop the madness and they didn't, and it was infuriating. The ending was also infuriating, but it did a good job of making you understand why the company had allowed that freak show to go on. *** SPOILER*** Because the company had invented the magic cure for all diseases they needed an administrator who had both a good moral compass in a horrible situation and a good attention to detail (hence the really stupid exam). The person who won had these things, and she did her best considering that she was a girl in a room filled with psycho boys who could (and would) do horrible things to her. ***END SPOILER***
Almost all of these people were varying degrees of horrible. Some were kind of ok. Others were absolute monsters, but that was the point. Most people, at bottom, are a bit ethically challenged. We know this from some kind of disturbing real-life psychological experiments we've done. If you take people out of heir normal social environment most of them will do horrible things to other people. And I appreciated that this movie talked about that. Even the character who won wasn't perfect. This movie wasn't meant to be an idealization of the human condition. It didn't say 'Yes, most people are bad, but deep down inside there's a shining spot of goodness that we can all bring out, and look at how principled our hero is in the face of adversity!' I literally had no idea who was going to win - in fact I thought that the worst one was going to win. That character didn't, and I was pleased with who won, but it was still a pretty sobering look at the human condition.
Overall Conclusion: 8/10
I really liked this movie. It's probably not appropriate for all audiences, but it was surprisingly good. The story was suspenseful and engaging. The characters were a realistic depiction of the human condition, and the movie challenged me to think about 'what would I do.' It's always easy to believe that we could never be like that, but I think if we think about it - unless we actively practice virtue and make a continuing commitment to righteous living we would make compromises in that sort of scenario. Those people didn't wake up that day expecting themselves to do those things. Their actions were a reflection of their inner character, and the real point of the Exam was to make that abundantly clear. One of the characters says that the Exam shows you yourself, and that turns out to be true in the most heartbreaking and revolting way.