The Belko Experiment – 2017
Director Greg McLean
Written by James Gunn
Starring John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, John C. McGinley, Melonie Diaz, Josh Brener, Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn, James Earl
This has to be something people think about once in their working lives. At least once. The concept a simple look into the human void. What if everyone that you work with and are friendly with on a daily basis all of the sudden are induced into a forced version of survival of the fittest? Who steps up, who resists and who is obliterated?
The Belko Experiment dares to ask the question but doesn’t have the patience to stick it out through all of its twists and turns. What seems a normal day at an office in Bogota Columbia starts to turn weird when a couple employees recognize that all of the nationals were barred from entering the building. There are also several new security guards in the area that are unrecognizable to the usually solitary security guard (Earl).
Before COO Norris (Goldwyn) and employee Mike Milch (Gallagher, Jr.) can piece anything together, the voice comes over the loudspeaker and the metal shudders collapse over all possible entrances. The group of 80 employees are told that they need to kill 2 people within a period of time. If they don’t, then more people die. They don’t say how, but of course we discover how soon enough.
As the voice over the loudspeaker is revealed to not be bluffing and totally in control, the rest of the workers start to splinter. The fissures happen slowly at first, then in a rush.
This could be a recipe for hilarity, or absolute terror. It could also be a study in human psychology if given the time. Ain’t nobody got time for that, though.
The film works to steadily build tension in the first two acts. Such is the dedication to the craft that they cast Rooker against type. It works, too, up to the moment that the type A’s begin to coordinate their effort. Then it all steadily goes to hell in a bucket.
The standout moment occurs to the sound of California Dreamin’ sung in a mournful Spanish. So unsettling is it, that it is possible those who see it in this way may never experience the song in the same way.
This is all enjoyable, to be sure. Undoubtedly because the premise if filled with intrigue and asks questions of human nature. If they’ve done a film like this before, they certainly didn’t attempt it to this scale. The number of characters interacting would normally require a certain percentage of bland characterizations, but the acting and writing is better than that.
The principal antagonists Goldwyn and Gallagher, Jr., along with Ajorna provide a solid counter balance for the most part. John McGuinley is a Sergeant Shultz for the bad guys like usual. Sean Gunn’s pothead Marty leads an amusing mini-rebellion against all of the water jugs in the building.
If they could draw out the suspense with a couple more twists and turns through the last act, this film has a chance to be a classic. As it stands, it is a solid film that deserves to be seen by anyone looking for a plot that hasn’t been played out.
Now to see what they do with it.
(***1/2 out of *****)