Exam – Review

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The final eight candidates in the running for what is apparently the most desirable job in the world – and no, it’s not taking over as caretaker of that tropical island – turn up to sit an exam as the final part of the selection process.

In four rows of two desks, in a dark, featureless room, they await instructions from the invigilator (Colin Salmon). There’s one question, they’re told, and one answer.

There are just three rules. Number 1. Don’t try to communicate with him or the guard (yes – this job is so desirable, the entrance exam has to be watched over by a man whose uniform includes a revolver). Number 2. Do not spoil your exam paper. Number 3. Do not leave the room.

They’re told they can begin. The pick up their neatly sharpened pencils and turn over the exam papers.

They’re blank.


The basic principle is moderately intriguing. What is the question?

This could have been an effective mystery film if there had been clues for the audience to follow, perhaps getting a step ahead of the characters.

But the increasingly desperate attempts of the eight to work out what’s being demanded is about as gripping as watching group of people sitting an exam.

In an empty room, there clearly aren’t many options for them, but this doesn’t make for interesting viewing.

There’s no chemistry between the characters – antagonism, yes – but we never really get to learn anything about them – except what’s needed for the plot to progress.

Reservoir Dogs-style, the candidates don’t exchange names and refer to each other by nicknames derived from their ethnicity or personality.

Because the characters aren’t required to jump off the screen, the performances feel flat. You don’t care about them. You don’t care who gets the job. And you’re left rather wondering who’d want to work for a company that has such a pretentious job selection procedure in the first place.

Perhaps the biggest failure of the film is that there’s not enough tension – and not enough at stake. There are guns being waved around, for goodness sake, and all for a job?

If you don’t get it, pick up a copy of the Times jobs pages on the way back to the job centre. And if the worst comes to the worst, they could stick to their existing job.

The film – well shot and technically better than its low budget warrants – feels like it’s trying to be Saw – a claustrophobic mystery – but you don’t feel that lives are at risk, large sums of money are at stake, well-earned reputations under threat – it’s just a job.

And unlike Saw, where we find out who is playing games with our protagonists and why, we never find out much about the company that’s setting this entry exam and we certainly never find out what’s wrong with a simple interview.

It’s a nice idea, but they don’t take it anywhere. The premise is intriguing. The film itself is not.

There is one question. Why did they bother making it?

There is one answer. I don’t even care.

You’ll be wishing you were taking an exam.

You’ll be itching to break rule number three.