The Stanford Prison Experiment – A chilling reinactment of the infamous experiment on social psychology
Written by: Tim Talbott
Directed by: Kyle Patrick Alvarez
In 1971, Dr. Philip Zimbardo conducted one of the most infamous experiments on social psychology ever, when he took 24 male college students into the basement of Stanford’s Psych building, which he and his team had converted into a makeshift prison. The young men were promised $15 a day for the two weeks required to conduct the experiment, and divided up into prisoners and guards. The idea was to study the effects of a prison environment on both the authority figures and the prisoners themselves. Ultimately though Zimbardo himself pulled the plug, after only six days, due to the damaging psychological effects it was having on the participants.
Writer Tim Talbot and director Kyle Patrick Alvarez don’t glam the story or it’s presentation up at all. They opted instead for a more docu-style approach in which we the audience feel as if we are observing the events (and the ones who observed it) as objective onlookers. It was a wise decision by Alvarez and creates way more of an emotional punch to the gut than would have been if he sensationalized what happened or placed blame. The viewer just sits and watches the ugliness of humanity unfold just the way it did in 1971.
At Alvarez’s disposal is a jaw-dropping ensemble cast full of long time top tier actors (Crudup as Zimbardo in one of his most impressive roles ever) and talented up and comers such as Ezra Miller and Tye Sheridan as the most rebellious prisoners and Michael Angarano in easily the best role I have ever seen him play as a power hungry, abusive guard nicknamed “John Wayne”. Top to bottom, the cast is brilliant.
If you are not familiar with the actual events of the experiment, I suggest you do a quick Google search and read up on it a bit, before watching “The Stanford Prison Experiment”. Being mindful, throughout the film, that the events all really took place (Talbot’s script was based on Zimbardo’s book “The Lucifer Effect” along with the exit testimonies of those involved) you will be reminded of just how true the saying “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” really is. Bravo to Alvarez and his talented cast and crew for making one of the best films of 2015!