By Shelby Fielding (Lubbock, Texas)
In the world of screenwriting, it is always important too, begin with an intriguing concept and then build characters, plot points, and cinematic sequences off of the idea. Greg McLean and James Gunn’s The Belko Experiment contains an intriguing concept that fails to build off of itself. With a straightforward narrative of a government owned corporate facility creating a social experiment in which eighty people must kill an amount of people in a given period or a larger number of individuals will die instead. This concept is remarkable even though it has an uncanny resemblance to Fouad Mikati’s Operation: Endgame which also takes place in a corporate building where people are forced to begin mass murdering for self-preservation. Though these two films take different turns and twists, they contain the same problem of providing an intriguing pitch for a script that fails to build upon itself.
Creativity is the first thing that you can notice is absent from James Gunn’s screenplay. Which is remarkable due to the incredible work Gunn has done in the past with the 2004 remake Dawn of the Dead, Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardian of the Galaxy Vol.2, and a fun little horror film called Slither. However, with this intricate resume, you would expect an original or at least an interesting screenplay that provides suspense, historical building, and alluring characters. Instead, the entirety of The Belko Experiment’s eighty-nine minute run time is convoluted. With an infinite amount of useless red herrings, beginning with a character who is unreasonably focused on, to convey an importance to his character that is never utilized to its full potential. Instead, he’s used as a plot device to carry the film along to its three exciting plot points.
There’s another character who’s disclosed as a mysterious and oddly capable character that confronts every circumstance with an abrupt calmness. Then her character is cut short in the finalities of the third act as if to refute the audience’s wishes of an investing story. The element of water is communicated on multiple occasions throughout The Belko Experiment, transmitting itself as an important item or device to the narrative’s conclusion or reasoning for existence. But, once again it’s never touched on realized to a conclusive answer. The filmmaking itself fails to creatively present an amusing or at least captivating way of killing people. All of the deaths are exhibited in the most boring and lifeless ways. With each kill being almost entirely empty of suspense or emotion itself, The Belko Experiment continued to let down with a mundane example of cinematography.
The cinematography is colored so bleak that it creates a comfortable environment for the eyes to relax to a point slumber. The performances themselves are okay; everyone is giving an effort to portray these characters as engaging or entertaining. John Gallagher Jr. and Tony Goldwyn are the two standouts who attempt convey provocative performances, but once again they fall flat due to the lifelessness of the screenplay.
The Belko Experiment is a refreshing idea that not only creates an artificial pitch but a possibility for a thrilling film. Instead, James Gunn chooses not to invest in his characters or his violence but instead in his imagery. The imagery is focused on heavily with the idea of these nightmarish atrocities coming to fruition with blood painted all over the corporate foundations. This imagery is enticing but imagery only makes visual responses possible, and I would rather have emotional responses to thought-provoking characters. This idea of a pitch film gains more evidence to prove the reality of some studios rushing to create a movie with a striking theory without constructing an alluring narrative that brings you into its grasp. And that’s what The Belko Experiment exemplifies best.
Leandra Flores: At the end of the day people are out for themselves.
Office Worker: [on the phone] Belko is a non-profit organization that facilitates American companies in South America.