Another day at the office.
The Belko Experiment has a straight forward premise—kill or be killed. Workers in an office building are directed by an unseen voice to kill a certain number of employees, or many more will die if they refuse.
What is interesting about this movie is that it is more or less a singular idea stretched the whole way through. “What do you think would happen if X?” I applaud this film for staying mostly on topic. The intricacies of personal interaction and relationships come into play for some, and for others it seems easier to detach.
There are a lot of people in this movie, but the two major players are Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) and Barry (Tony Goldwyn). As is probably expected, the employees divide on whether or not to follow the directives given to the by the voice. Mike represents those who believe that they should not, and Barry is on the other side. Unfortunately, we don’t get a lot of discussion surrounding this moral dilemma, which is truly a mistake. Mike more or less rejects the notion of even considering anything other than stoic refusal. It is clear that the audience is meant to agree with him, but by having him refuse to engage with the discussion we only hear arguments from Barry. Barry in a lot of ways is the more influential character simply due to his voice being heard. Mike does make a couple good arguments, but they are so few that it is easy to simply see him as a side-character at several moments.
The film shows restraint in trying to overdo the coolness or edge factor that so many movies of this sort tend to. In a lot of ways this reminded me of Cabin in the Woods without the incessant self-patting-on-the-back that plagued that film. Belko emphasizes realism in a lot of the scenes and this mixes with a certain level of directorial detachment for a unique feel. Yet, there is an inconsistency, the film is not only a hardline look at a what-if question, it is also satirical and darkly humorous. Sometimes these elements jive together in a fun and interesting way, and sometimes they don’t.
I enjoyed the move when I watched it, but it left almost no lasting thoughts (good or bad) in my head. I had a bit of a hard time remembering what movie we had just watched when we went to bed, and this might highlight one of the issues in the movie. The humor detracts from the seriousness, the seriousness of the end detracts from the humor, and in a lot of ways we have two sides of an equation cancelling each other out.
The movie is a lot of fun to watch, and there are some slick moments that will make you cringe and laugh. The problem is that once the credits role the film hasn’t really taken you anywhere you haven’t been before. If you think you will enjoy this film based on the previews you probably will. 6/10