A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
One of Those Among Us Is a Killer, and We Cannot Leave This (a) Isolated Country Estate, (b) Besieged Police Station, (c) Antarctic Research Outpost, (d) Haunted House, (e) Space Station (f) Rogue Planet or (g) Summer Camp until we find out who it is -- or until we all die. It is a most ancient and dependable formula, invariably surprising us with the identity of the killer, because the evidence is carefully rigged to point first to one suspect and then another, until they persuasively clear their names by getting murdered.
In "Mindhunters," a thriller directed by Renny Harlin, the suspects and/or victims are assembled on an isolated island that has been rigged up by the FBI as a training facility. It looks like a real town, but is equipped with video cameras and hidden technology so supervisors can see how well trainees handle real-life problems, not that getting your head shattered into super-cooled fragments is a challenge they'll be facing every day on the job.
The formula was used early and well by Agatha Christie, whose influence on "Mindhunters" has been cited by such authorities as the Hollywood Reporter and Film Threat. In the London play "The Mousetrap," which is now in the third century of its run, she assembled a group of characters in a snowbound country house; one of them has died, and the others try to solve the murder during long conversations in the sitting room involving much malt whiskey, considerable tobacco, unwise "looks around the house," and the revelation that some of the people are not really strangers to one another. It was possibly this play that gave us the phrase, "Where were you when the lights went out?"
To the Agatha Christie formula, "Mindhunters" adds another literary inspiration: George Orwell's "The Decline of the English Murder," a brilliant essay in which he celebrated the golden age of British poisoning and other ingenious methods of disposal. The victims were usually married to their killer, who tended to be a meek accountant who had fallen into a trap set by a floozy: "In the last analysis," Orwell writes, "he [commits] murder because this seems to him less disgraceful, and less damaging to his career, than being detected in adultery."