The Stanford Prison Experiment, 2015
Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez
A group of researchers at Stanford University are conducting a study that looks at how the personalities of prisoners and guards can affect each other and can cause abusive behavior within the prison system. The group puts out an ad looking for male students, paying them $15 a day. They recruit 24 students, flipping a coin to determine whether they are prisoner or guard, and then they make a mock prison in the basement of Stanford University. The study was to last 2 weeks, and would be observed through cameras, everything running as a normal prison. However, the results start to spiral out of control as things don’t go exactly as expected.
The Stanford Prison Experiment was a real experiment conducted in the 1970s. It was controversial and led to terrifying results. THe movie simply starts with the student interviews, and launches quickly into the “prison life”, having the prisoners be “arrested” and sent to the prison in Stanford University. This is an incredibly fascinating film about an experiment gone wrong, and just how much it affected, not only the subjects, but the researchers themselves.
The film is filled with fantastic performances. Ezra Miller and Tye Sheridan are two of the most interesting young actors working today. Both have such interesting filmographies, and are so talented. Miller, in particular, is just so pitch perfect for this role as a tormented prisoner. Miller just always throws himself into his roles, and this is no exception. Nothing is held back here. The true star of this film, however, is Michael Angarano. Angarano takes on the role of Christopher, one of the prison guards, who decides to embody a John Wayne/Cool Hand Luke persona, and dons the thick southern accent and harsh manner. Angarano is absolutely terrifying and really shines in this role. The small moments where we see him flip back into his regular character is so shocking after seeing him as “John Wayne”.
This movie is masterfully done and well-acted. The story is so incredibly captivating, that it’s so hard to look away. It’s filled with so much to think about, and really digest. It’s definitely not an easy film to watch, as it asks so much of its audience. But it’s definitely a rewarding watch, as this is just so well-made and well-told.