Derren Brown’s “Sacrifice”
The British mentalist, magician and showman Derren Brown has long created television specials of enduring power and controversy. Much of his work concerns psychological manipulation and social coercion. In our view, shows like “Russian Roulette” (filmed live on a 15-minute delay) and “The Push” (in which an average member of the public is convinced to commit what they believe is murder), cross the fine border between mentalism and sadism. Brown latest, “Sacrifice,” is equally gripping and high-stakes. In this one, an average racist immigrant hater, an American, is convinced to save an illegal immigrant from death by gunshot. Though “Sacrifice” is manipulative and often painful to watch, some of the show’s bigger points — namely, the power (and danger) of social conditioning) — come through elegantly and convincingly. We found it hypnotizing.