The issue of ethics is a key factor in research testing as fame and profit can be seen as huge motivators to bring new products to the market. In the new Netflix film “Spiderhead” Chris Hemsworth stars as “Steve: who runs an isolated minimal security prison where selected inmates gather in a relaxed co-op setting to serve their time and assist with drug trials.
The facility offers relative freedom for the inmates as there are no cells, and minimal security and they have their own rooms despite being isolated from news of the outside world.
Steve and his assistant observe inmates as they are subjected to various drugs via a medical pack they wear and the fact that they have to consent to allow the process to start each day seems to remove ethical boundaries.
Jeff (Miles Teller) is a favorite inmate for Steve and his trials have involved a drug that brings on intense fear, increased vocabulary, and increased desire which makes even a total stranger instantly desirable.
Jeff has feelings for a fellow inmate named Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett) and this adds to his conflict as he starts to think that Steve is not being upfront with them regarding the testing as it seems to be becoming more intense to the point that when tragedy strikes, Steve sees it more as an annoyance to cover up to keep the trials going.
As the trust becomes clear, Jeff must find a way to get what he knows to the outside world and escape from Spiderhead.
The film is based on a short story called Escape From Spiderhead and in many ways is a difficult film to review.
On one hand, it would be easy to discuss key aspects like the lack of a medical facility, oversight, and certain checks and balances but at the same time, the concept and performances are engaging. It is a prime example of having to overlook certain issues in order to move the story forward. The film may play it safe in some areas and take the formulaic path at times but it does make one think about how far would a person take trials of this nature and justify their actions by rationalizing that the subjects are prisoners who volunteered and are free to return to State Prison if they no longer consent to take part in the trials.
In the end, the film provides enough entertainment despite the shortcomings, and Hemsworth who did double duty as a Producer is to be praised for taking on a role different from his usual heroic outings.
3 stars out of 5
You can catch the movie on June 17th on Netflix.