After nearly two weeks and hundreds of films screened, the 2015 Sundance Film Festival came to a close last week. The Sloan Foundation welcomed a new film into the family, awarding Kyle Patrick Alvarez's The Stanford Prison Experiment the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Award, accompanied by a $20,000 cash grant. Starring Billy Crudup as Stanford psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo, the film is still seeking U.S. distribution, but early reviews have been largely positive.
Drew McWeeny at Hitfix praised the film for being "authentic and honest", writing, "There is something chilling about the way people accepted their roles during the experiment, and because Alvarez doesn't push you to a specific heavy-handed reaction, the film doesn't feel like it's taking a position on what happened. The matter-of-fact tone, the small character details… it's observational, not editorial. The filmmakers trust the audience to have their own reaction, and it's very effective stuff.
"Variety's Justin Chang echoed McWeeny's comments on the filmmaking, noting "D.p. Jas Shelton’s use of widescreen expertly captures the tense group dynamics at play and the often-violent choreography of bodies within the frame, and his camera manages to find dynamic angles on the action while crucially conveying the suffocating sense of a locked-in environment... And Andrew Hewitt’s score, by turns churning and ominous, adds a necessary jolt of momentum that keeps the proceedings from becoming as clinical as the context might demand."
"Alvarez’s complex portrait also works double duty as a kind of experiment on the audience: a cruel, near-excruciating endurance test that plunges viewers face first into abusive behavior. As the psychological torture crosses the line, one can feel the film coil its hands around the audience's neck ever so slowly. And through brilliantly simple composition, Alvarez masterfully manipulates the viewer into a complicit voyeur while putting them through grueling paces", adds Rodrigo Perez at The Playlist in his A- review.