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Exam

Year: 2009
Production Co: Hazeldine Films
Director: Stuart Hazeldine
Writer: Stuart Hazeldine/Simon Garrity
Cast: Adar Beck, Gemma Chan, Jimi Mistry, Nathalie Cox, Chukwudi Iwuji, Pollyanna McIntosh, Luke Malby

Some movies are all concept, and you can tell from the opening frames of Exam that it's one of them.

Eight strangers are left inside a locked room with a guard. They all have a desk with a piece of paper on it. A guy comes in at the beginning and lists a short set of very specific instructions. The one who passes the test will get an extremely desirable job at what's hinted to be a globe-stopping technology company headed by an enigmatic sociopath. Those who fail or don't obey the rules are immediately ejected from the room and out of the process.

Their task is to answer a single question which they (and the audience) assume is printed on their papers, but with their 80 minute ordeal underway, they discover each paper is blank.

After a few minutes of the candidates nervously eyeing each other, the boldest, White (Luke Malby) – who christens everyone according to their hair or skin colour – risks speaking to everyone else rather than the guard. The roof doen't cave in, so apparently that's allowed and they need to take the rules much more strictly than they bargained on (don't talk to the guard, don't spoil their papers, don't leave the room).

White encourages them to become a team and work to solve the puzzle together, but they are after all in competition for one job, so not everybody's on board the whole time, and the script writes enough differences and idiosyncracies into each character to give the story some meat as they bounce off each other or collide.

Everything about the set-up and execution screams loudly about what the film wants to be – a tense psychological thriller of shifting alliances, mistrust and characters that ratchets up the pressure as their number is gradually depleted. It's mostly successful at doing that, but not completely so.

The premise is solid, but the story wobbles a bit keeping up to it. The dialogue also gets a bit heavy-handed at times, individual lines a bit too full of their own self importance.

But it does handle the tension nicely and it's always a pleasure to see a halfway decent thriller made completely out of script and acting with no action or special effects.

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