Eye For Film >> Movies >> Double Blind (2023) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Medical experiments on humans are a difficult area, both ethically and politically. Many people are horrified by the very idea of them, yet the same people tend to be horrified by the idea of taking a drug which has yet to be tested by other people. Public perception of the risks involved tends to be exacerbated by the dramatic headlines produced when something goes badly wrong; and yet there is also evidence than where such headlines can be avoided, negative results tend to be under-reported, with experiments scrapped rather than recorded as failures as proper scientific procedure requires. In film, of course, they are almost always occasioned by unethical scientists, and such is the case here, in a film which carefully establishes that most such procedures are benign, but reflects on how vulnerable test subjects are if somebody breaks the rules.
The experiment, in this case, involves a new drug which might obviate the need for sleep. This is a longstanding area of interest in the real world, and there’s big money behind it which, of course, increases the pressure to at least bend rules a little. It’s a practical premise for a film because it provides an excuse to take seven young strangers and trap them in an enclosed space, then put them under pressure: the perfect starting point for low budget drama. During the opening scenes we get a bit of backstory for each of them, some being notably more forthcoming than others. We learn that one, Amir (Ashley Kumar), is a medical student, which will of course become relevant later on, and we also meet the clinician overseeing the experiment, Dr Burke (a steely Pollyanna McIntosh).
When things begin to go wrong, it’s up to Amir to figure out what’s happening, and his instruction to the others is clear: don’t fall asleep or you will die. Unfortunately, by this point the participants have already been awake for a couple of days, and when they inadvertently trigger a lockdown, they realise that they’re going to have to get through another 24 hours before there’s any hope of getting medical help. On top of this, the usual difficulties associated with lack of sleep kick in, from irritability to paranoia, and we are invited to wonder if they will survive one another.
There are few real surprises in what follows but the capable cast keep it interesting. Millie Brady is good as Claire, a young homeless woman who was irritable before the experiment even began, but who already has some experience of surviving in difficult circumstances. Many of the others seem so well chosen to aggravate one another that one almost suspects the involvement of Philip Zimbardo, and some other secret aim. Only Amir really keeps his cool, and of course this, together with his grasp of what’s going on, leads some of the others to suspect him of having participated in setting them up. As the clock ticks down, the tension rises, and fear of accidentally falling asleep means that no-one can risk being alone.
Though it could do with tightening up a bit in places – it is director Ian Hunt-Duffy’s first feature – Double Blind is an effective little thriller with will keep you on the edge of your seat, and keep your eyes open.Reviewed on: 11 Feb 2024
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