It's been an extremely long time since I sat for an examination, and frankly to have anything filmed about an exam will likely be boring stuff, since it consists of a quiet setting, and candidates furiously burrowing answers penned onto the answer booklet, or looking worried as they realize they haven't a clue to what's being asked. Being on a relatively short flight, I thought this film will be something right up my alley to watch tortured souls being put through the rigours of an exam, only to find myself constantly engaged in a modestly budgeted film done right.
Writer-director Stuart Hazeldine managed to craft an intriguing, taut thriller that will entertain, however, being a first timer, Hazeldine sometimes trips up with a less than deft handling at some elements that will give the cat away to an alert viewer. The premise begins with 8 individuals, on the surface being all the stereotypes covering different races and physical builds, put into a windowless room with individual desks, a pencil and a question sheet in front of them. A stern invigilator (Colin Salmon) lays down the ground rules, and they're off to provide their answers, only to find a surprise in store.
It's a recruitment exercise, and these individuals have to provide the ultimate answer as to why this particular high profile organization has to offer their lucrative job opening to one of the candidates. In Reservoir Dogs like fashion, each candidate is given a nickname according to skin colour (not very PC, but it'll do) and the film slowly develops into a psychological study into what a group will do in a co-opetition (cooperation-competition) setting since they each have to rely on the abilities of others toward their collective goal, yet the goal being available to only the last one standing.
So the stereotypes emerge, such as the arrogant windbag Mr White (Luke Mably), his opposite number Mr Black (Chukwudi Iwuji), the uptight, secretive Mr Brown (Jimi Mistry from The Guru), the women nicknamed by their hair colour Blonde (Nathalie Cox), Dark (Adar Beck) and Brunette (Pollyanna McIntosh), and the quiet Deaf (John Lloyd Fillingham) slowly unravel what's more than meets the eye, and while the first few challenges do prove that they can work their strengths together, the usual human failings of greed, cunning and selfishness soon rear their ugly head and that's when the film ups its ante as you'll start to see alliances being formed, and guessing just whose innate background and ability will see them through right to the end.
There are some little sub plots thrown in to spice the premise up, such as a disease that's spreading across their country, and ultimately what price an individual have to pay to make it to the top, and as much as I had enjoyed this thriller, there was room enough for improvement, such as to try and be a little bit more subtle than to wave Chekov's Gun around. It's nothing too fancy, but the storyline and delivery packs a wonderful punch in holding onto your attention for a gripping 90 odd minutes. Recommended!