The Stanford Prison Experiment

The Stanford Prison Experiment is more of an ensemble piece than Experimenter, which makes it a more piercing lesson in social psychology. Billy Crudup contributes a mesmerizing performance as professor Philip Zimbardo, who recruited 24 male students to spend two weeks role-playing as prisoners and guards in a basement wing of the psychology building at Stanford. But the action shifts from Zimbardo and his staff to the guards to the prisoners, the college kids played by an able cast that includes Michael Angarano, Ezra Miller, and Tye Sheridan. Angarano is particularly good as Christopher Archer, who adopts the southern drawl of Strother Martin (the boss man in Cool Hand Luke) to play the captain of the guards. Nicknamed John Wayne by the prisoners, he fosters an atmosphere of casual intimidation and playful torture, putting the prisoners through an endless regimen of tests, calisthenics, and other punishments. The guards are prohibited from assaulting the prisoners, but after only a day that line has been crossed. “Let’s see where it goes,” says Zimbardo as the experiment begins its gradual decline into chaos. Continue reading >>