VOD film review: Containment
Occasional script wobbles5
Matthew Turner | On 10, Sep 2015
Director: Neil Mcenery-West
Cast: Lee Ross, Louise Brealey, Sheila Reid, Pippa Nixon, William Postlethwaite
Watch Containment online in the UK: Netflix UK / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Apple TV (iTunes) / Virgin Movies / TalkTalk / Eircom / Google Play
Directed by first-timer Neil Mcenery-West, this micro-budget British sci-fi thriller stars Lee Ross (best known for playing Evil Owen in EastEnders) as Mark, a middle-aged man who’s on the brink of losing his son in a custody battle. On the morning of his hearing, there’s a power cut in his building and Mark oversleeps, but his problems quickly go from bad to worse when he realises someone has epoxied his front door and he’s effectively sealed in his high-rise council flat.
Shortly afterwards, one of Mark’s neighbours (Andrew Leung as Sergei) comes crashing through his wall with a hammer, trailed by bewildered couple Sally (Brealey) and Aiden (Postlethwaite), and Sergei’s seemingly mute younger brother Nicu (Gabriel Senior). Together, they bash through the wall on the opposite side and pick up Mark’s elderly neighbour Enid (Reid), before trying to work out exactly why their flats have been sealed up and what all the people are doing wandering around in hazmat suits on the ground below.
The initial hook of the film is extremely successful and David Lemon’s script does a good job of sustaining tension, both through refusing to explain their situation (a recorded voice keeps repeating that it’s just a gas leak and they shouldn’t panic) and the increasingly fractious nature of their group dynamic. Similarly, a large part of the action takes place in a single location, adding an effective level of claustrophobia and aligning the film with other trapped-in-a-single-space thrillers, such as Buried or Panic Room.
Ross makes a solid and believeable lead as well-meaning everyman Mark and William Postlethwaite has a nice line in frustrated, know-it-all pedantry as Aiden, whose relationship with Sally appears to have been on the skids even before they all got sealed in their apartments. Leung also has an effective, unsettling presence as quick-to-anger Sergei, but his psychopathic behaviour seems overly exaggerated and jars uncomfortably with the relative realism of the other characters.
In the latter half of the film, the group are forced to contend with neighbours from the block opposite. However, the script fails to make clear whether their animalistic, desperate behaviour is the result of a virus that has already hit, or just meant to be a comment on general human selfishness. On top of that, the film falls frustratingly short when it comes to certain genre conventions regarding the fates of its characters. Despite these flaws, Containment remains an accomplished and engaging (if deliberately low-key) sci-fi thriller that marks Mcenery-West out as a potential talent to watch.
Containment is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.