While you may have to hunt around a bit to find a theater playing the indie film, The Stanford Prison Experiment, it will be well worth it if you enjoy thrillers based on true stories. The film is based on a Stanford University psychology study performed in 1971 where 24 students voluntarily applied to act out as either prison guards or inmates. Each was paid $25 a day, (a nice chuck of change back then), but it did require the inmates to stay in their mock prison 24 hours a day. The “guards” were to work either the day shift of the night. The study was to last for two weeks but they only made it through six days.
Billy Crudup gets all the accolades for playing the role of professor Dr. Philip Zimbardo, which he does an excellent job, but the tensions rests in the hands of the character actors playing the students who either give a chilling performance as intimidating guards or persecuted inmates. The film is a surprising psychological thriller, probably more so because it is based on true events. The real Dr. Zimbardo himself was on hand during the making of the film to assure its accuracy.
After a series of interviews, the 24 men were told that they were selected for their roles based on their talents or personalities or something, but in reality, they were chosen by a flip of a coin. Those chosen as inmates begin the experiment quite jovial, while those made into guards take their jobs too seriously. The inmates are stripped of their clothing, (given rag dresses to wear instead of pants and shirts) and given numbers instead of names. The guards are all dressed alike and wear sunglasses to appear unified. Rules are given in the form of a contract that each participant signs stating that no one is to touch the others in any way.