8 corporate hopefuls gather at a mysterious location and are instructed to take one final exam as a final test to see which one will walk away with a prestigious job at a major company. The trouble is their exam papers are blank, and it would seem that there is not even a question to answer. For 80 minutes each must solve the puzzle without being disqualified by breaking one of the few rules, all of which double as a riddle/clue to solving the exam question and answer.
There are no set changes, no flashbacks to see more about the character’s past, not a single thing that takes us outside of the tiny exam room. As our young hopefuls are slowly eliminated from the competition, the story becomes all the more engaging. The cryptic, “think WAY outside the box” puzzle solving (along with an interesting science fiction angle to the story that is revealed about midway through) makes this film resemble a film like Cube more than 12 Angry Men. Normally a film like this would hinge on the characters, but the riddles and their manner of deducing then trying to solve them is ample for maintaining the audience’s interest. Like how the setting was far more interesting than the characters in Cube, the riddles are more interesting than who is trying to solve them.
Not to say that we are dealing with completely uninteresting characters but they are a touch two-dimensional as all we ever know is their ethnicity and then, perhaps, one secret that is revealed to add tension between them; said secret usually being their occupation before this exam or simply their motivation for applying. That all being said, the performances can be a touch rigid at times. Some of the actors try a bit too hard to fit into (what would seem to be) a one-line character description, such as the “intense former soldier,” the “smart but insecure girl wearing glasses,” or the “cocky but charismatic bad-boy.”
Widescreen 2:35:1. For a movie set in one room, there are quite a few drastic lighting changes. This can be quite risky as there is never a moment where dark tones are quite apparent, and things look pretty sharp throughout. An HD presentation could potentially look amazing but the quality is consistently good here.
Dolby Digital 5.1. What we mostly hear is the characters voices and there is never a point where I needed to adjust the sound to catch everything. Doubtlessly there was ADR )post-production dubbing) and it is seamlessly blended in. The ambient, airy sound of the room is clear in the speakers helping to place us there and add to the stillness that creates most of the tension.
Subtitles available in English and Spanish.
Trailer: A nifty demonstration of just how much varied action happens in a film that only takes place in one room.
This is the sort of film that is worthy of revisiting, if nothing else but to try and resolve the volumes of “what if?” questions your brain produces upon reaching the climax and reflecting on everything leading up to it. A decently executed thriller with enough sci-fi to make the story different and enough puzzles to keep things engaging without getting convoluted.