A mysterious and powerful corporation have reached the final stages of its interviewing process. Eight candidates enter a windowless room. An Invigilator gives them eighty minutes to answer one simple question. There are just three rules to stick to or face disqualification: 1) Don't talk to the Invigilator or the armed guard by the door. 2) Don't spoil your exam paper. 3) Don't leave the room.
The clock is set off and the 80 minutes begins to tick down. The Invigilator leaves. The candidates turn over their question papers. But the page is totally blank. There are no questions. Confusion reigns for several minutes. A clever candidate thinks he has the answer and takes his pen to write… 'I believe you should hire me because...' He is promptly ejected for spoiling his paper.
Only at this point do the remaining candidates realise that although they are not allowed to speak to the Invigilator or the guard, they are in fact allowed to talk to each other. A pact to cooperate in order to figure out the question is hatched. But they are still unable to work out what they should be doing. In the process however they do uncover each other's backgrounds, prejudices and hidden agendas. The clock ticks down as tensions ratchet up. Who will ‘hired’ and who will be ‘fired’?
The action is set in real time over 90 minutes. This sort of thing has been done before to great effect with Phone Booth starring Colin Farrell. That film had a remarkably tight script and unwavering direction. And also, I am happy to report, does Exam, to a certain point at least. There is an excellent sense of tension, claustrophobia and suspicion, especially in the first half of the film. These sort of dynamics are tremendously difficult to achieve yet writer/director Stuart Hazeldine seems to have it all under careful control despite having what would most likely have been a very small amount of money to work with. And he manages to get some very good performances from a mix of acting talent.
Admittedly the build up and indeed the first half of the film is probably the best, the second half does disappoint somewhat after a very promising opening the full potential isn’t truly realised and taken full advantage of, but nevertheless the overall effect of the film is good. It’s worth giving this Exam, 90 minutes of your time.