In Sacrifice, the enigmatic mentalist and illusionist Derren Brown carried out one of his greatest stunts yet.
He didn’t convince someone that they had committed a murder or manipulate someone to rob a bank. Instead, he convinced one man to do the opposite: to give his life for a complete stranger.
As always, Brown went through a vigorous and selective process to find a suitable candidate. The man he chose was a 33-year-old Brit/American named Phil who “isn’t racist,” but thinks that America should kick out all of its immigrants. In other words, the man Derren chose is not someone you would anticipate to have it in him to be a selfless hero.
Once Phil had been selected, Derren Brown duped him into believing a chip had been implanted in his head, which would encourage adrenaline when a trigger sound was heard. When the “chip” was put to the test, Phil failed to face his fear of heights and deep water when told to jump off a bridge into a lake. From that moment, it became unclear whether the plan would be successful.
Up to this point, the episode was interesting but not particularly memorable. In the second half of the episode, however, during the “empathy” stage of the plan, the Netflix special took an unexpected and moving turn.
Phil discovered from a DNA heritage test that he was not as “American” as he thought. The test revealed he had descendants in Israel, Syria and Mexico, which he was shocked to learn. He was then sat opposite a man of a different race to himself and was instructed to look into the stranger’s eyes for four minutes.
The test was designed by a psychologist to encourage empathy in a person, and the results were spectacular. After a short time looking into the man’s eyes, Phil was moved to tears, claiming it was like seeing into the man’s soul. After this stage, it was clear that Phil was a changed man.
The final segment was meticulously orchestrated and right up to the last moment, it was unclear whether or not Phil would take the bullet. The final moments of the show were tense, exciting and incredibly moving, but you’ll have to watch for yourself to see exactly how the ending panned out.
The takeaway lesson from the episode was that we have the power to override the stories we feed ourselves. Phil proved that there is a hero in everyone and that when we strip ourselves of our tribal identities and prejudices, we are deep down all the same and have the capacity for fierce compassion and fearless understanding.
Derren Brown: Sacrifice was an emotional wild ride and had us gripped from start to finish. We can’t wait to see what the miraculous illusionist has up his sleeve next.