The Stanford Prison Experiment

First Hit:  A puzzling and difficult film to watch. The behavior changes shown by both the prisoners and guards in the mock prison experiment was astounding.

This film is based on a true event in the summer of 1971 where Dr. Philip Zimbardo (Played by Billy Crudup) set up and ran a prison experiment in a basement of a Stanford University campus building. I sat mostly flabbergasted at the scientists running this experiment, the prisoners, and the guards behaviors. This was supposed to be a two week project where the subjects were given $15 a day to either be a prison guard or a prisoner.

The choice was made by a coin flip by Dr. Philip Zimbardo the guy who conceived and ran the experiment. Although I wasn’t there, and this is a film reenactment, this experiment needed to be stopped far short of the 6 days it lasted. The behavior of Dr. Zimbardo was filled with power and it took him 6 days to realize that he had became part of the experiment and problem. The men who were selected as guards almost to the person found that power over others was intoxicating. This behavior I found less shocking.

However, I was really shocked at how quickly the prisoners fell into such subservient positions to the guards. This film was difficult to watch and I wasn’t the only one. The audible gasps in the audience assuaged my own gasps and nervous laughs.

Crudup was strong as the ego driven psychology professor. Nelsan Ellis as the former San Quentin prisoner, Jesse Fletcher, who was monitoring the experiment was outstanding. All the prisoners and guards were great and made it seem like this is how it could have happened. Strong performances – all. Tim Talbott wrote this powerful script. Kyle Patrick Alvarez expertly directed this film.

Overall:  This film was fascinating and difficult to watch.