Derren Brown: Sacrifice

Derren Brown: Sacrifice

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Can you convince somebody to take a bullet for a stranger? That's the latest psychological experiment from Derren Brown as he attempts to change the way his test subject Phil sees the world and the people in it. Interesting to watch.

From Netflix, Derren Brown: Sacrifice is a one off special covering a very specific psychological experiment. The belief is that we are only a product of the stories we tell ourselves. If, at any point, we wanted to change our thoughts and how we see the world we could. So to prove his point Brown sets out to create a very elaborate stunt.

He advertises for participants to take part in a documentary about a revolutionary micro chip. Thousands apply and they get whittled down to 100 who attend a one day seminar, from which six people will be chosen. One of those is called Phil. Phil is American and up for the challenge. But what Phil doesn't know is that there isn't six people taking part, there's just one – him.

Phil is nice, easy going guy. He lives in Florida with his wife and two kids and like most people, is willing to try something that he believes will increase his overall happiness. What makes Phil stand out is that some of his views are a little unpalatable. In fact, Phil believes that all illegal immigrants, in the US, should be sent packing. And it's this point of view that Derren Brown is hoping to radically change. He wants to know, if despite his beliefs, he can orchestrate a scenario that will result in Phil willingly taking a bullet for an undocumented illegal.

The premise is sound, even quite interesting. The problem is that it all seems incredibly manufactured. They found the mildest mannered guy in the world and put him in the most ludicrous of situations. Okay, so he may not be an all-singing, all-dancing liberal but he's hardly a member of the Klan. And I'm not justifying his view points, I'm simply stating that he's far from being an extremist loon, who would probably have made for a more interesting subject.

They made him think he had a micro chip implanted, conditioned him through a series of daily updates and gave him techniques to use to get over any fears he had. Then they sent him packing back to his life and secretly filmed him. That in itself is ethically questionable! And then comes the big one. The finale which will determine whether Phil will come good and do the unthinkable – put himself in the line of fire for a complete stranger.

Sacrifice is an interesting piece of tv. On the surface it is engaging and the experiment is one worth exploring. However, it's shoved into 50 minutes and it all feels very convoluted and rushed. It's not going to set the world of Psychology on fire and while it has some good points, it is also a bit forgettable. If it's a good documentary you're after then Icarus (review here) is much better.


  • Interesting Premise
  • Reasonably Engaging


  • Convoluted
  • Rushed


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