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Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

FIRST-time writer-director Stuart Hazeldine’s taut psychological thriller Exam is an astute piece of filmmaking in many ways.

Firstly, it has its finger on the pulse of global concerns (both economic and health related); secondly, it’s attention grabbing and sufficiently intelligent with it, and thirdly, it makes the most of an engaging – and largely unknown – cast.

The plot is simple and yet wide reaching. In a claustrophobic, windowless room, eight job candidates gather for a final exam to see who will get the single position on offer.

Presided over by an armed guard, they subsequently turn over their exam papers to be confronted by a blank and must work together over the course of 80 minutes to figure out the question while eliminating each other.

Part The Apprentice, part Cube and inclusive of both health epidemics such as swine flu and monetary issues such as unemployment, Exam is a fascinating brain scrambler that works on a mostly cerebral level.

The candidates – including Luke Mably’s brash ‘White’ and Jimi Mistry’s quietly confident ex-soldier – are a similarly intriguing bunch whose loyalties and motives are constantly being tested.

Hazeldine, for his part, keeps the tone dark and the twists coming, so that you’ll be working as hard as the characters to work out the answers to the question posed.

While the ending, when finally revealed, proves worthy of the clever set-up… and is by no means obvious even to hardened clue solvers.

Of the actors, Mably emerges with most of the credit, displaying both bravado and vulnerability at various points, but he’s in good company all-round with Mistry, Pollyanna McIntosh and Chuk Iwuji all impressing in different ways.

The overall result is a genuinely fine British thriller that serves as both an excellent debut for creator Hazeldine as well as a useful showcase of emerging acting talent.

In more ways than one, Exam passes the test.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 85mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 7, 2010