Exam (2009) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Eight candidates for a highly desirable corporate job are locked together in an exam room and given a final test with just one seemingly simple question. However, it doesn't take long for confusion to ensue and tensions to unravel.

  • Eight talented candidates have reached the final stage of selection to join the ranks of a mysterious and powerful corporation. Entering a windowless room, an Invigilator gives them eighty minutes to answer one simple question. He outlines three rules they must obey or be disqualified: don't talk to him or the armed guard by the door, don't spoil their papers and don't leave the room. He starts the clock and leaves. The candidates turn over their question papers, only to find they're completely blank. After the initial confusion has subsided, one frustrated candidate writes 'I believe I deserve...,' and is promptly ejected for spoiling. The remaining candidates soon figure out they're permitted to talk to each other, and they agree to cooperate in order to figure out the question: then they can compete to answer it. At first they suspect the question may be hidden in their papers like a security marker in a credit card, and they figure out ways to change their environment to expose the hidden words. But light, liquids and other plans all come to naught. Soon enough, the candidates begin to uncover each other's background, prejudices and hidden agendas. Tensions rise as the clock steadily descends towards zero, and each candidate must decide how far they are willing to go to secure the ultimate job . . .

  • In a near future, eight candidates are in the final stage for the position of CEO's assistant in a pharmaceutical corporation. They are locked in a room and the invigilator tells them that they have eighty minutes to answer one question only. He explains that in the lawless space there are only three rules to be followed otherwise they would be disqualified: they should talk neither to him nor to the armed guard; they should not spoil their piece of paper; and they should not leave the room. He starts the chronometer and leaves the room. Then the candidates discover that they have a blank piece of paper with their numbers only. One woman starts writing on the paper and is removed from the room for spoiling the paper. The other candidates figure out that they are allowed to talk to each other and they need teamwork to discover the question. As far as the time runs out, the tension increases.

  • Having passed all the previous hiring steps, the final eight candidates for a lucrative corporate job are brought together in a starkly lit room set up classroom styled. Beyond ambition, they are a diverse group, culturally, ethnically, academically, professionally, by gender and each with a different skill set. They have eighty minutes to complete the final exam, the results which will determine who gets the job. The exam invigilator provides them with a very specific but short set of instructions, violation of any of those instructions which means automatic expulsion from the examination and the room. At the beginning of the eighty minutes, the invigilator exits the room for the duration, leaving the eight candidates alone only with a guard on duty, to who they are not to speak (one of the instructions). Alone, they find that the examination is not what they expect, as it begins more as a puzzle to be deciphered which may or may not lead to the question and thus the answer they are to provide. They find that they have to pay attention not only to the invigilator's instructions, but also to what he did not say. As the eighty minutes counts down, each shows to what extent they will go to be the last person standing, all with not a clear understanding of what the end goal of the job is.



The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Eight candidates for a top job at a mysterious company are gathered in a windowless room with two rows of desks. They have passed previous requirements not mentioned in the film. They each choose a seat and upon each desk is a piece of paper which identifies them as, "Candidate 1", "Candidate 2", etc. The invigilator, (Colin Salmon), arrives and sets forth the rules for the test.

    Inside the room there will be no laws other than what the company permits, as such. The candidates cannot try to communicate with the invigilator himself nor the guard. They cannot spoil the paper and they cannot leave the room for any reason. If they break any of the rules, they will be disqualified. The test consists of answering one question. The invigilator asks the candidates whether they have any questions. He sets the clock at 80 minutes and leaves the room.

    Once alone, the candidates turn their paper over and find nothing is written on the back. They look at each other in confusion, and the candidate "Oriental" (Gemma Chan) starts writing "I believe I deserve..." The guard (Chris Carey) puts her out because she has written on her paper, spoiling it.

    A young white man, (Luke Mably) starts talking, stands up and convinces everyone to work together until they find what the question is. He also gives insulting names to the candidates according to their physical appearance, like Blonde, Deaf, White, Brown, Dark...

    At first, they try to read a hidden message in the papers by placing them in front of tubes of ultraviolet lights that horizontally surround the room. They then break the tubes so that the emergency lights come on. When they break the emergency tubes they find infrared light. None of this helps them to see anything on the paper. They further discover that if a candidate spoils another candidate's paper, neither of the two will be disqualified.

    They try spilling liquids over the paper. White urinates on his but finds nothing.

    White takes charge of the group as a de-facto leader. Brunette (Pollyanna McIntosh) discovers they can touch the guard as long as they don't talk to him. She finds a lighter in one of his pockets. She wants to set off the fire alarms because it may produce something other than water which may reveal a photograph that shows the question. She jumps onto a table, but still cannot reach the sprinkler. White offers her a paper and after succeeding she discovers that White gave her her own paper, so she is disqualified.

    White picks on Deaf (John Lloyd Fillingham) who speaks only French. Deaf displays symptoms of a mental or nervous disorder. He says in French that they only have to look at the papers while he tries to re-order some small pieces of glass on top of the paper. White bullies him into tearing the paper and eating it. The guard puts Deaf out.

    They discover that Brown (Jimi Mistry) is a professional gambler, and he suggests that the board of directors is hidden on the other side of the wall betting on who'll win. Dark (Adar Beck) is a psychoanalyst who seems to be the only one who has some information about the company, the products it sells, its expansion etc., but none of the other candidates were able to find any information in spite of doing some research. They think she's a spy within the company and is actually working for them and they want to get the question out from her with torture. When Brown is going to torture her by cutting her with a piece of paper, they discover that she has self-hurt on one of her thighs before. Brown makes a cut. Blonde offers her a piece of plastic plaster.

    White deceived them by saying the group could collaborate until they guessed but after tricking Brunette into being disqualified each one begins to mistrust the others. As the tension builds to greater levels White ends up tied to a chair by Black (Chukwudi Iwuji) and Brown. White starts convulsing and is unable to find his medication, which is required every hour. While everyone else is trying to decide the best way to help, Dark turns toward the blank screen and pleads, and is thereby disqualified. Blonde (Nathalie Cox) discovers that Brown stole White's pill and stuck it under his desk with a piece of chewing-gum. Blonde forces the pill into White's mouth, they free him and he gets well almost immediately.

    White believes only one can win. He and Black begin arguing and race to get the guard's gun. White is allegedly shot by Black, but they discover the gun didn't actually fire. White gains possession of it and tries to shoot Black, but once again, the gun doesn't shoot. White figures out that the gun may only be shot by the guard, so he puts the gun into the guard's hand and shoots. White threatens everybody that they must leave or be killed. Brown leaves. Blonde leaves and shouts "lights out" in order to give Black the opportunity to win. In the dark, White kills Black. Blonde has not completely left the room. One of her feet remains partially in the room.

    White shouts to the other side of the wall that he's won, however, he loses because Deaf has adjusted the clock so that the 80-minute time slot has not yet expired. The glass wall is turned on and White can see the silhouette of the invigilator. He looks at Black on the floor and realizes that it has all been in futility, so he tries to commit suicide. He is unable to because, as recalled, the gun will only work with the guard's fingers. The guard disqualifies him by putting his arm on White's shoulder and leads him out.

    Blonde fully enters the room again and picks up her paper. She fumbles with the pieces of Deaf's broken glasses and reads "Question 1" written on the watermark of the paper in very small print. She offers it to the invigilator and says "no", answering the question put forth "Are there any questions?". She is offered the job. She is explained Deaf is the CEO of the company. He is a troubled but genius scientist who has discovered a pill to heal wounds really fast.

    Blonde says that she may not accept the job. When the invigilator points to why she went through all that trouble if she didn't want the position, she points to Black lying on the floor and says that it's unacceptable. The invigilator asks, "Who told you that he's dead?". She approaches Black and sees that the bullet wound is almost healed. The invigilator says that they put the fast-healing pill inside the bullet.

    They own the formula for the medicine which also healed White's illness, but it can only be manufactured in very small quantities. The new director needed to have sympathy alongside ambition, intelligence, drive and hard work.

    Blonde accepts the job right away.

    >>Summary written by KrystelClaire

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