The Bottom Line
- Great cast
- Good pace
- Acutely observational drama
- Removes some of the depth of the original
- Starring Adrien Brody, Forest Whitaker, Cam Gigandet, Clifton Collins Jr., Fisher Stevens, Maggie Grace
- Directed by Paul T. Scheuring
- Rated R
- DVD Release Date: September 21, 2010
Guide Review - 'The Experiment' DVD Review
The director of the experiment (Fisher Stevens) informs the subjects -- all men -- that they will simulate a prison environment, with a select few playing guards and the bulk of the group playing convicts. Mild-mannered mama's boy Michael (Forest Whitaker), with whom Travis initially bonded, is chosen as a guard, while Travis joins the prison population.
The prisoners are given a few basic rules -- basically amounting to obeying the guards at all times -- while the guards are told to exact punishment for infractions in any matter short of physical abuse. Initially, things are lighthearted, but both the crimes and the punishments become increasingly serious by the day. All rules go out the window as the guards, under Michael's command, turn to brutality and the prisoners, led by Travis, teeter on the breaking point.
The Experiment is one of those rare remakes that does the original -- the 2001 German film Das Experiment -- justice, and in some respects, actually outperforms the original. It's certainly hard to match the star power of two Academy Award-winning lead actors in Brody and Whitaker, and even if they don't give Oscar-worthy performances here, they're still captivating. The supporting cast is strong as well, including Cam Gigandet, Clifton Collins Jr., Fisher Stevens and Maggie Grace.
The remake's plot is basically the same but with a few notable alterations that simplify (and shorten) the story and improve the narrative flow. In the American version, the experiment has more of an anonymous Big Brother nature that makes it clear that the subjects are on their own, ratcheting up the stakes, while the Travis/Prisoner 77 character is caught unawares by the experiment, unlike the original, where he's a reporter hoping to expose the study. The ending of the new film too feels more impactful and profound, tying into the surreal nature of the experiment itself.
In the end, though, both versions are thrilling, acute observations on human nature and group dynamics. You can't go wrong with either.
No special features.