Smart and satisfying

Experimenter tells the story of real-life social psychologist Stanley Milgram and his career of behavioural experiments.

Most importantly, his experiment on obedience from 1961 which had members of the public administer electric shocks to a subject based on word games. The members of the public would be asked to increasingly up the voltage on the shocks the more mistakes a subject made. The subject is actually a collaborator in the experiment and acts out higher levels of pain as the shocks are seemingly administered. It was a ground-breaking study that spoke a lot about humanities blind obeyance of instruction from higher authorities.

Apart from this experiment he also developed the concepts behind the small world phenomenon or “six degrees of separation” and many other important psychological studies.

The film casts Peter Sarsgaard as Milgram, who also breaks the fourth wall continuously throughout the movie to narrate the story and introduce the different characters and eras of time. It’s a ploy that could’ve gone really wrong but works in the films favour because of smart writing and self-assured acting on Saarsgard’s part.

We also have Winona Ryder as his love interest and, later in the film, his wife Sasha Milgram. I’m a big fan of Winona and I think she adds the most when she’s cast in supporting roles, this movie being no exception.

Apart from her there’s also John Lequizmo, Anton Yelchin and Taryn Manning as supporting characters in the roles of experimentees in his obedience tests.

It’s a smart and satisfying movie that could serve as a history and psychology lesson as well.

- Nathan Kearney

Movie Details

Title: Experimenter
Director: Michael Almereyda