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Experimenter

7/10
History . Drama . Biography
 

Yale University, 1961. Stanley Milgram designs a psychology experiment that still resonates to this day, in which people think they’re delivering painful electric shocks to an affable stranger strapped into a chair in another room. Despite his pleads for mercy, the majority of subjects don’t stop the experiment, administering what they think is a near-fatal electric shock, simply because they’ve been told to do so. With Nazi Adolf Eichmann’s trial airing in living rooms across America, Milgram strikes a nerve in popular culture and the scientific community with his exploration into people’s tendency to comply with authority. Celebrated in some circles, he is also accused of being a deceptive, manipulative monster, but his wife Sasha stands by him through it all.

 
Actors: Peter Sarsgaard , Winona Ryder , Edoardo Ballerini , Jim Gaffigan , Anthony Edwards , Ned Eisenberg , Lori Singer , Taryn Manning , Anton Yelchin , John Leguizamo , John Palladino
Directors: Michael Almereyda
Country: USA
Release: 2015-10-16
More Info:
  • Mick LaSalle

    Seemingly loose and free-associative in style, Experimenter builds to an effect and, for all its humor — or rather, through its humor — makes a sober and chilling point.

    San Francisco Chronicle Full Review
  • Sheri Linden

    Writer-director Michael Almereyda, whose "Hamlet" and "Cymbeline" boldly reimagined Shakespeare, takes a stylized visual approach in Experimenter, with bracing results.

    Los Angeles Times Full Review
  • Manohla Dargis

    Mr. Almereyda takes Milgram, his work and ideas seriously but doesn’t suffocate them: Despite the story’s freight, the laboratory shocks and Milgram’s insistent melancholia, Experimenter is a nimble, low-frequency high.

    The New York Times Full Review
  • Michael Atkinson

    The movie is itself a rat-maze of one-sided mirrors, windows upon windows, anonymous hallways, compartmentalized instances of watching, being watched, seeing and not-seeing.

    Village Voice Full Review
  • David Edelstein

    Experimenter is busily, thrillingly reflective. Its artificiality makes it seem even more alive, more in the present tense.

    New York Magazine (Vulture) Full Review
  • Scott Foundas

    Experimenter offers a heady brew of theories about the essence of human nature, and a Peter Sarsgaard performance that catches Milgram in all his seductive, megalomaniacal brilliance.

    Variety Full Review
  • Stephanie Merry

    Experimenter’s most striking quality is the way it encourages us to think deeply, from the first frame to the last, even if it’s just to consider what on Earth an elephant is doing on screen.

    Washington Post Full Review
  • Godfrey Cheshire

    Orson Welles once described his approach in “Citizen Kane” as “prismatic,” and while there are many differences in subject and style between that cinema milestone and Michael Almereyda’s Experimenter” the two films share a multi-faceted formal playfulness and an essential intellectual seriousness that make them similarly bracing, original and thought-provoking.

    RogerEbert.com Full Review
  • Marc Mohan

    The well-chosen supporting cast — Anthony Edwards as a test subject, Jim Gaffigan as one of Milgram's confederates, and especially Winona Ryder as Milgram's wife — help tremendously to keep The Experimenter humming along as entertainment rather than dry docudrama.

    Portland Oregonian Full Review
  • Tricia Olszewski

    Experimenter is a largely engrossing sit, even during an unfortunate moment when Sarsgaard sings and the film threatens to become a musical. But as interesting as the developments are, they’re too inscrutable to stay with you for very long.

    TheWrap Full Review
  • Jordan Hoffman

    Ultimately, Experimenter finds a glimmer of hope by simply revealing itself. Maybe if more people are educated about the dangers of obedience, they’ll put up more resistance. It can’t hurt to hope.

    The Guardian Full Review
  • John DeFore

    Technically puckish where appropriate but grounded by strong performances from Peter Sarsgaard and Winona Ryder, the film is not awards bait but makes some Big Thinker biographies that are look staid.

    The Hollywood Reporter Full Review
  • Anthony Kaufman

    Almereyda has created an experiment of his own: a kind of cinematic Rorschach test, prodding viewers to consider what they would do if sitting in the same seat as Milgram’s subjects.

    Screen International Full Review
  • Peter Keough

    Despite this labyrinthine self-consciousness, the film, like its subject, keeps careful note of dates and places.

    Boston Globe Full Review
  • Mike D'Angelo

    The film bears the subtitle The Stanley Milgram Story, but it’s most effective when it strenuously avoids biopic conventions, focusing intently on the man’s controversial professional life.

    The A.V. Club Full Review
  • Farran Smith Nehme

    Ethical objections to Milgram’s work are presented as killing the messenger; well-known issues with his methodology appear not at all. The movie’s an intellectual shock tactic, but it succeeds.

    New York Post Full Review
  • Chuck Bowen

    Aesthetically, the film cunningly suggests life that exists solely within an academic experiment, closed off from chaos that isn't manufactured.

    Slant Magazine Full Review
  • Richard Roeper

    In a way (and maybe it was a conscious choice), some of Almereyda’s flourishes mirror Milgram’s flamboyance — but in both cases, when you have such a provocative foundation and such rich material to work with, pushing it to the next level isn’t necessarily the best choice.

    Chicago Sun-Times Full Review
  • Roger Moore

    Experimenter is a capital example of that prophet-ahead-of-his-time narrative, a movie about a scientist who lived (just) long enough to revel in the fact that he was onto something before everybody else. And that he was right.

    Movie Nation Full Review
  • Katie Walsh

    While the experiment itself is fascinating, the approach taken by Almereyda in using distractingly peculiar storytelling techniques only succeed in distancing the audience from the film's inspiration.

    The Playlist Full Review
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  • experiment

  • biography

  • controversy

  • electric shock

  • psychologist

  • human behavior

  • milgram

  • radical

  • experimenter

  • social experiment

  • elephant

  • breaking the fourth wall

  • yale university

  • husband wife relationship

  • year 1961

  • 1960s

  • written by director

  • one word title

  • scientist

  • biograph

  • bio

  • science

  • based on true story

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