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EXPERIMENTER

What to know:
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
Recommended age 12-18
90 minutes
FeatureFilm
MAGNOLIA PICTURES
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EXPERIMENTER cover image Click to play video trailer
I have very mixed feelings about this film. The topic is interesting yet the execution is somewhat flawed. I was very curious to see this film. Everyday an experiment is done for the good of science. However, some experiments find information that people really don't want to accept. A good example of this is when we found out Earth is not the center of the universe. Well, this film explores an experiment that discovers a dark fact about humanity and the question is, will we accept it?

This film is a drama with a few jokes here and there. Relationship between characters grow, sparking some romance and, it is all wrapped in one big adventure for Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard).

The story starts in the mid 60s, when a Yale professor, Stanley Milgram, is doing a very questionable experiment where he is making people think they have to send an electric shock to someone if they get a question wrong. The thing is, every time he or she tries to stop them, a lab assistant tells them to keep going. This experiment shows how people will do things like they did in the Holocaust if an authority tells them to. The evidence from it is a bit scary. 65% of the 200+ people he tested shocked the subject until he would be dead with up to 450 volts. Only 35% percent of the test subjects refused to continue. Interesting enough, the professor got a lot of hate for this experiment. He was told his experiment was wrong and he forced people to torture others. So, this work not only affected him but his family as well.

This film is rather unique. In some scenes, everyone would almost freeze and you see Peter alone, addressing the camera directly, giving a monologue about the experiment. Stanley Milgram is a very difficult character to play because of his personality, but Peter portrays Stanley to the point that I almost forgot I was watching an actor.

However, the sets are a bit disappointing. In quite a few scenes it looks very careless and almost cheap. For example, in one scene where Stanley and his wife (Winona Ryder) are entering a house. We see what looks like a projected black and white photo of an old house - almost as if we are watching a play and not a movie. I could understand if they were trying to get the actors in color and the background to be black and white, but the picture is very poorly done. It is blurry and bad quality, as if they just got a picture from an old stock. If they couldn't have created an actual set, they could have animated some sort of background, or gotten some stock video. It just looked very poorly done. I also think the film is stretched out way too long. Half the scenes don't feel significant at all to the point where it becomes boring. I think it was important to make this film and the topic does need to be discussed, but I also think they could have done a better job and made it much more engaging.

My favorite scene is when they show one of the people who is in the 35%. The subject decides to stop and not shock the person. He is a technician who tells the assistant he knows how a shock feels and what it is like to feel it repeatedly. I love this scene because, when the assistant follows the experiment script and says he has to shock the person for the experiment, the technician says he has his own right to choose and walks out the door. It is a great message to show that each person has their own right to choose. They don't have to listen to an authority if they think it is wrong. Hopefully, it will help us make sure that mass genocides don't happen again.

I think this film covers some mature topics and has some mature language, so I recommend it for ages 11 to 18. I also give it four out of five stars because, although the sets are rather careless and the film is stretched out, I think it is a very important film for people to watch and an important topic for them to know about.

Reviewed by Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

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Experimenter is based on the true story of famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram, who in 1961 conducted a series of radical behavior experiments that tested ordinary humans willingness to obey by using electric shock. We follow Milgram, from meeting his wife Sasha through his controversial experiments that sparked public outcry.
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