“Normal people do not work at Belko”
It starts off like a normal workday at Belko Industries, except for the paramilitary guards outside. Belko is an American company that has set up shop near Bogotá, Columbia. Because of the threat of kidnapping, each employee has a tracker embedded in them for security purposes. As the day begins there is lots of comradery (and some rivalry) as at any workplace. Just as people are settling into work, an announcement come over the speakers. In the next half hour, two of the people in the building must be murdered, or four random people will be killed. The building is completely sealed off. There is no escape. Is this some sort of prank or a deadly game? Well, since the title of the film is The Belko Experiment we have to assume this is not going to end well.
As the day plays out and the stakes get more and more deadly, people react differently. Some try to problem-solve their way out of the building. Some think it’s all a hallucination caused by the water. Some think they need to follow the orders and start the process of deciding who will live and who will die.
Viewers, of course, will consider which group they would end up as a part of. Should they try to survive by stealth and cooperation, or would they take up violence to survive at any cost? I suspect most viewers would say those who eschew the violent response are the good guys and those who only seek their own well-being are the bad guys. But is that an oversimplification? And what of those who are running this show? Aren’t they the true enemy that should be confronted by everyone?
The character that we are given the most reason to identify with, Mike (John Gallagher Jr.), is clear that killing each other is the wrong approach—for one reason, they should know that whoever is doing this will never let anyone tell the world about it. He serves as the main moral voice that holds out against the violence. We want his position to lead to a way of defeating the unseen power that is crating this situation.
ALERT: SPOILERS FOLLOW
Mike maintains that moral high ground even when some of his coworkers are trying to kill him. At least he does until the last five minutes of the film when he opts to lash out in rage—not only at the killers inside the building, but those who are controlling it all. The film ends by crushing any hope we had that there is a better way than violence. It is as if you were to watch Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge (which is slightly bloodier) and after Desmond Doss refused to touch a gun and spent hours rescuing wounded soldiers, he finally picked up a machine gun and blew away half the Japanese army. I felt as though my hope that there is a way to conquer evil without violence, which had been fed throughout the film, was betrayed by those last few minutes.
Photos courtesy of MGM