6 February 2011 | secondtake
Terrific filming, a small-budget conceit, and a plot stretched to the breaking point
What a bizarre movie. It's so beautifully filmed, almost virtuosic in its use of focus and close up and light, you almost forget that the plot is a highly contrived package of clever ideas. When you do think about the plot, and the various holes that open up in the logic of it, you are almost forced to enjoy it for the visuals. And for the acting, which has some real high points.
You also marvel at how the entire movie is shot in a single room (with a glimpse of hallway a few times). I suppose you might bow to the film's makers for pulling off so much with so little. The result is intelligent and a little bit suspenseful at its best moments. When it begins it is absolutely fascinating, from the opening scenes establishing the characters to the first laying out of the rules (although there is a drama that reminded me for some reason of "Deal or No Deal" at its tackiest). Then some of the characters break out of the futurist mode and we have normal people vying to win the game, the contest to be hired by the mysterious health products company behind the scenes. (This part will remind everyone of a stylized and a bit false seeming "The Apprentice" even to the point that you might wish for a Donald Trump to appear from behind the dark screen and prod them along.)
By the end, I think most people will either be a bit tired of it all, or mostly incredulous. It pulls out lots of tricks, and we are inevitably a little surprised by the final turns of events. But I'm not sure it lives up to the high standards set at the start. Get sucked in, sure, but be prepared to stick it out with effort.