- 1 hr 38 min
Experimenter is a 2015 biographical drama film which tells the story of controversial social psychologist, Stanley Milgram, and his infamous obedience experiments. The film is directed by Michael Almereyda and stars Peter Sarsgaard as Milgram, John Palladino as Jim McDonough (Milgram's research assistant), Anthony Edwards as Miller (Milgram's mentor), and Jim Gaffigan as James McDonald (a subject in Milgram's experiment).
Set in the early 1960s, the film takes us into Milgram's world as he embarks on a series of experiments designed to test the willingness of ordinary people to obey an authority figure who instructs them to do something potentially harmful to another human being.
Milgram's research is controversial because it challenges the widely-held belief that people are inherently good and will not harm others unless they are threatened, coerced, or forced to do so. In Milgram's experiments, people were asked to administer electric shocks to a confederate (an actor posing as a participant) when they answered questions incorrectly. The shocks increased in intensity each time, and in some cases, reached dangerous levels.
The film is narrated by Milgram himself, who speaks directly to the camera and provides commentary on his own experiments. Through flashbacks and dream sequences, we see his life unfold, including his marriage to Sasha (Winona Ryder), his relationship with Miller, and the public backlash he faced after the experiments were published.
One of the most striking things about the film is its style. It's shot like a stage play, with characters frequently breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the audience. The sets are minimal and often seem to be made of cardboard, providing a stark contrast to the complex ideas being discussed. The film is also interspersed with archival footage, including news footage of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, which adds context to the events portrayed.
As the film progresses, we see Milgram becoming more confident in his own power as an authority figure. He starts to manipulate subjects by telling them that they have no choice but to continue with the experiment, even when they express discomfort or concern about the shocks. He also starts to question the morality of what he's doing, wondering if he's actually causing harm to the people he's testing.
The subject of obedience is one that's still relevant today. The film raises questions about free will, moral responsibility, and the power dynamics of authority. Milgram's experiments continue to be debated and criticized, but they've also had a lasting impact on the fields of psychology and sociology.
One of the film's strengths is its performances. Sarsgaard is excellent as Milgram, capturing both his intellect and his vulnerability. Ryder is also impressive as Sasha, particularly in a scene where she confronts Milgram about the ethics of his research. Palladino, Edwards, and Gaffigan all give strong supporting performances.
Overall, Experimenter is a thought-provoking film that will stay with you long after you've watched it. It's not an easy watch, but it's an important one. It invites us to question our own beliefs about obedience and authority and to consider the consequences of our actions.
Experimenter is a 2015 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 38 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.6 and a MetaScore of 81.