Film - Containment


Without the aid of a hazmat suit, Ren Zelen watches the indie film Containment ...

Director: Neil Mcenery-West

Writers: David Lemon and Neil Mcenery-West

Starring: Lee Ross, Sheila Reid, Gabriel Senior, Andrew Leung, Louise Brealey, William Postlethwaite, Pippa Nixon

Does crisis bring out the best in us, or does our veneer of civilization and morality begin to erode under acute pressure? Containment, the feature-film debut from award-winning British short director Neil Mcenery-West, attempts to examine this question.

Mcenery-West’s film takes place in a crumbling tower block in an unnamed location, and unfolds through the eyes of Mark (Lee Ross), a failed artist separated from his wife and young son, struggling with the responsibilities of being a husband and a father. Mark wakes one morning to find that he is trapped inside his flat. The door and windows are sealed shut.

It soon transpires that all of his neighbours are in the same situation - Enid (Sheila Reid), Sally (Louise Brealey), Sergei (Andrew Leung), Aiden (William Postlethwaite) and Nicu (Gabriel Senior). The entire block has been locked-down and quarantined by an army of hazmat-suited government officials.

Having no explanation for their imprisonment, nor for the brutal treatment of those trying to escape, the block’s disparate occupants crash through the flimsy walls of their apartments and decide to band together in order to resist being forcibly taken by the hazmat-suited medical team.

Together, they make attempts to defend themselves from their faceless oppressors in a battle for survival. But when they take a hostage and begin to discover the unpalatable truth, and when they and are forced to deal with Sergei’s tendency towards violent outbursts, tempers fray and fear takes over. Loyalties are tested as the group begins to come apart and allegiances dissolve.

It seems a fairly familiar premise, but Mcenery-West and David Lemon have written an interesting take on the idea. On the surface, the film is a conventional under-siege thriller, at heart, it is a character study of a group of ordinary people forced to make impossible choices under nerve-shredding circumstances. It soon becomes apparent that the title of the movie refers as much to the conscious repression some of the more dangerous and ungovernable aspects of human nature as it does to the situation the protagonists find themselves trapped in.

Although the basic plot rests upon familiar Hollywood tropes, the premise does not confine the movie to predictable avenues. The pacing remains brisk and the plot constantly moves forward. In only 77minutes, Containment manages to deliver an effective vision of social and moral disintegration. There is palpable tension within the spaces and peril around every corner, interspersed with occasional shocking brutality.

The director asserts, “David Lemon and I wanted to establish familiar genre tropes and audience expectations within the first act, only to subvert those expectations mid-way through the second. Just as our protagonists begin to make increasingly questionable choices, the audience, through identification, begin to question their own moral response – who can one side with? What would one do in that situation?”

There is certainly a political subtext, but it never dominates, and therefore doesn’t risk alienating its audience. The film delivers because it has a carefully crafted story with an economical, effective script, and a cast of a character it is easy to identify with and which comprises of some genuine British acting talent that is able to deliver the dramatic goods.

Director Mcenery-West affirms “I wanted to create a film that became a visual metaphor for the emotional journey of the characters. Just as the morality and civilised nature of our protagonists begins to crumble under pressure, so too does the very fabric of the building that has been invaded. Their environment transforms into an urban jungle where you have to fight to survive. It becomes a microcosm of society.”

Containment is a strong debut - an Independent British feature which is well-written and well-acted - a survival thriller which puts the emphasis on storyline, performance and location in order to deliver a stark insight into how different characters rise or fall according to their circumstances and how deceptive the solutions may be.

Containment is released in UK Cinemas on 11th September 2015. (Its US Release date was August 1st 2015)

Copyright R.H. Zelen – ©RenZelen 2015 All rights reserved.

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