The Stanford Prison Experiment Reviews
Weaknesses: Olivia Thirlby (Dr. Christina Maslach) is one of the best things about the movie. She‚(TM)s in the weakness section because the movie needed to use her more. Even if she wasn‚(TM)t there for the real events, you can alter things for a movie retelling so it‚(TM)s not a straight documentary. Having her around more would‚(TM)ve made for more intriguing moments between her and Zimbardo. It‚(TM)s hard to put my finger on what it is exactly, but this movie was missing something. It executes a ton very well and doesn‚(TM)t do a lot poorly, but it also doesn‚(TM)t fully click for some reason as something truly special.
Overall: Everything is well done in this movie, from the acting to the atmosphere. It‚(TM)s one of the better films of 2015, but it was missing an ‚it‚? factor to put it in contention for the best.
BUT, it isn't a play...it's a low-budget movie with an interesting cast, an interesting story and a deep, deep need for an editor. The film runs just over 2 hours, and should EASILY have come in at 90 minutes. In case you don't know, this is a true story, about a 1971 "experiment" conducted by a Stanford research psychologist in 1971. He hired a bunch of students (at $15 per day) to take on the role of either prisoner or guard. Other than telling the guards they couldn't physically hurt anyone...they could pretty much do what they wanted. The scariest thing the experiment teaches is not that under these circumstances, the guards might be come cruel and the prisoners terrified and dehumanized. It's HOW FAST it all happens. The movie also shows what a horribly conceived experiment it was, and how terribly the psychologist and his colleagues got sucked into playing their own "roles" in this scenario. It's pretty amazing that people didn't go to jail and the looney bin for this little game.
The young men are played by a wide variety of interesting actors such as the always good Tye Sheridan (MUD) and the fascinating Ezra Miller (WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN). Miller is a pretty compelling and interesting film actor, but in this project, he's just a bit over the top. His character's arc is clumsily written, granted, but he could have overcome this better. He's a great example of what I said above...if this same performance were transported to a theatre with an audience of about 900, it would be thrilling. Here, where we can see him up close, it's just a bit too much. Billy Crudup, as the shrink, perhaps fares best of all because he doesn't forget that in film, less is often more. He does a convincing job portraying a man who fools himself into thinking his "game" is advancing human knowledge in a useful way, and not just destroying the psyches of all involved.
It's not a FUN movie to watch...and many of the scenes of tormenting the prisoners drag on too long or are too repetitive. It's as though the director and writer thought they had to make their point over and over and over. It just became a bit mundane. (Perhaps that was the point...but what it really did was kind of grind the momentum to a halt after the film gets of to a brisk start.) This is worth seeing, but it's also not the earth-shattering revelation it wants to be.
(Full review TBD)