The Belko Experiment is one of the most gripping and brilliant movies to hit the big screen in years. Writer James Gunn and director Greg McLean have take the rather simple concept of an office building under siege and turned the idea on its head to the point where it is no longer recognizable.
The plot is simple enough. Belko Industries is a non-profit that specializes in transitioning American workers to South America. Because of that they are located on the outskirts of Bogata, Columbia, the inside might feel like an American office but everyone there is essentially still a stranger in a strange land. For insurance reasons Belko has put a chip inside each employee’s head. If they were to every get kidnapped they would be able to track them right away and save them. All of that sounds completely logical and any employee would probably submit to it without questioning.
The day begins more or less normally for the office until a mysterious voice comes on the intercom to let them know that the entire company has two hours to kill two people. If two people aren’t killed than more will die in their place. The building goes on lockdown and that’s where the real fun begins.
McLean has gathered together some of the best character actors in the industry and every single one of them packs a punch. These are experts in their craft literally going head-to-head with each other for survival. It would be beautiful to watch it weren’t so unnerving.
By trapping everyone inside and raising the stake to a literal do or die situation everyone’s true nature comes to light. Like an ultra-violent “Lord of the Flies” it isn’t long before alliances are created and the cost of a friend’s life becomes a topic of debate. The enforcers are led by Tony Goldwyn and John C. McGinley while the peacekeepers are led by John Gallagher Jr. They represent the two ends of the reaction spectrum. In between are those who choose to pretend the whole incident is simply in their heads and those who run and hide while the others fight.
The microcosm that Gunn has created ends up being the perfect outlet for the current state of the world. It isn’t long before violence for a reason becomes violence for the sake of violence. The tension is doubled with the knowledge that every single person on screen has a chip in their head that could go off at any moment. No one is safe. There is no shelter.
This is Gunn’s Cabin in the Woods. You can tell him playing around with a genre he loves and twisting and turning the expectations created by hundreds of movies before it on its head. Just when the audience has it figured out another surprise comes out of nowhere leaving you gasping.
The Belko Experiment won’t be for everyone but everyone should see it. More than any other film of its kind Belko gives real insight into human nature under extreme circumstances. You may leave the theater in shock, but better because of it.