This is perhaps a 5-star movie, but the over intensity prevented me "loving" this movie to a simply "liking" this movie. An experiment in the human psyche is conducted using a prison setting where one third of the participants are guards and two thirds are inmates. They are divided up according to their interview, part of which we get to see as a way to quickly build character. Adrien Brody is a prisoner. He is the ultra liberal atheists. Forrest Whitaker, a religious fellow who believes in absolute right and wrong becomes one of the guards. The two briefly talk and connect prior to the interview process.
The participants are promised a $1,000 dollars a day as long as they follow the rules. Breaking the rules must be dealt with "commensurately" and within 30 minutes or else the red light comes on, the experiment is over and no one gets paid. At this point I suspected two things: 1) The red light would never come on no matter what they did and 2)There were some shills within the group. I was wrong about the second one.
While one of the rules was "no violence" the guards gradually test what constitutes violence. The red light becomes their "God" who "approves" of their action by inactivity. Forrest Whitaker eventually becomes the leader of the guards, even punishing his own guards who have compassion toward the prisoners. Adrien Brody becomes his rival as the leader of the prisoners.
The acting is good. The action is at a good pace. There is human torture and beating as one might expect.