mattmav45’s review published on Letterboxd :
Far too frequently superior source material is hampered by haphazard execution in the cinema world. The end result ultimately amounts to an inferior cinematic viewing that simultaneously devalues the source material on display. Fortunately for the viewer, such is not the case here.
The template for this viewing is well-known. A group of Stanford students in the 70's partake in an experiment in a simulated prison environment, in which half are designated as being prisoners, and the other half are designated as being guards. The results bit to the very bone of human nature in general, and the fragile nature of our own personalities. As a viewer, one would hope the handling of the material is done in such a way that the findings of the experiment hold maximum impact. Fortunately for the viewer, such is very much the case here.
The viewing is able to hold power not only from the source material, but more importantly the performances that lie front and center within said viewing. Superior acting performances abound, and they assure that the viewing attains an impact and realism that is essential for this source material to truly come alive. Billy Crudup in particular is fantastic in portraying Dr. Zimbardo, and aptly conveys the dynamics that flourished and allowed this experiment to spiral out of control.
A good amount of attention has been placed on the questionable nature of this experiment, and the situation that these young men were placed into. Ultimately I can't help but feel this is pure, unadulterated science at work. The experiment may have indeed spiraled out of control, but in many ways it accomplished exactly what it set out to do. Science does not hold any bias or prejudice, and even the experimenters themselves couldn't help but get wrapped up into the dynamics inherent to said experiment. They're only human, after all.
In the end there's no greater testament to the fact that power corrupts the human mind. It's terrifying in many respects, but the results of the experiment speak for themselves. The dynamics of the experiment ultimately jaded and corrupt even the scientists who were supposed to be managing and staying control on things. It's bad science perhaps in the way the experiment was conducted, but ultimately I can't help but feel that this is essential science in which the importance of the results simply cannot be over-stated.
The source material is timeless, but it's the execution within that allows this viewing to aptly convey said source material in cinematic form.