He's just a laid-off retirement care worker named Travis (Adrien Brody) and when his new found girlfriend Bay (Maggie Grace) is about to leave to and travel the world, Travis is now in desperate need of quick cash. Days before Bay is set to leave, Travis embarks on an advertisement for a psychological behaviour study that pays $14,000. The study is focused around a mock prison where 26 male participates are divided into two groups; the prison guards and the prisoners. The rules of the experiment are clear and simple to follow with the first rule being “neither side are allowed to be violent toward the other”. As the experiment begins and the “inmates” loose some of their human constitutional rights, the guards slowly become power hungry and led by the sadistic Barris (Forrest Whitaker) they become dictators and rulers of the prison, doing so in an animalistic manner.
This film was inspired by the events of the Stanford prison experiment in the US and a remake of a 2001 German film Das Experiment. The Experiment directed by Paul Scheuring shows how a simple study of human behaviour study slowly becomes a spiral journey into violent confrontations and survival. What started off as a study slowly faded away and formed into life behind bars. By taking normal obedient people and placing them in an environment of one side having all the power and the other side losing theirs, we begin to see how rapidly our human nature changes, depending on our situations.
The guards knew that a simple choice of who would be the guards and who would be the inmates only separated them. That the only real difference between them is that one group has the prison inmate uniforms and the other prison guards uniforms. Even still the guards knew that the inmates did nothing wrong, that this was all an experiment. But the roles of the oppressors and the oppressed were so powerful and the environment they were in was so influential, everyone forgot it was an experiment.
When the inmates are constantly subjected to physical and psychological torture a war brews between the inmates and the guards and Travis’s quick payday becomes a battle of survival. The Experiment isn’t just about 26 men in a mock prison but rather a study on human behaviour. The film is an analysis on the concept of how long it takes for humans to turn into animals and seeing what happens when you give complete control to someone, who never had any real power in their previous life.