Film Review: Containment

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Originally published on The National Student on 01/07/15. 

4-stars

Neil Mcenery-West’s debut feature is a low key affair, but one which showcases a range of British talent and proves there’s life left in the survival genre yet. 

Set within the claustrophobic confines of an ageing estate located somewhere within the deep depths of England, Containment finds struggling artist and recent divorcee Mark (Lee Ross) waking up one morning to find himself trapped inside his own apartment for no discernible reason. When a neighbouring wall is caved in by fellow resident Sergei (Andrew Leung) however, the situation begins to escalate, as Mark soon learns that his entire block has been quarantined by an army of hazmat-suited government officials. Suddenly faced with little hope of release, the block’s occupants decide to band together and wage war on their face-less oppressors, in a no-holds-barred battle for survival. 

Based on plot-line alone, there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of originality within Containment. The film’s set-up and hero complex is very much by-the-book and rests largely upon a great deal of Hollywood tropes; but yet surprisingly, this never fully forces it into the realms of the predictable. Despite being built on a very standard foundation, David Lemon’s script never fails to raise eyebrows and at a lean 75 minutes, rarely appears to run out of steam either. 

Lemon and director Neil Mcenery-West’s ragtag team of survivalists are each developed to surprising degrees (although some more than others) and the narrative hurdles that plague them throughout are always dealt thick and fast, appearing at the most dreaded of times and thus gifting the film with a hefty dose of constant tension that rarely lets up. Put simply, there is genuine peril around every corner – which is all that can really be asked of a thriller of this calibre – and this is massively down to a cast of characters that it becomes very easy to invest in and care about. 

Although there may be very few recognisable faces amongst this bunch – bar perhaps Sherlock’s Louise Brealey and former Eastender Lee Ross – the performances land far beyond what can be expected from a low-rent Brit thriller such as this. Ross’s lead is an extremely likeable and personable central hero, whilst worthy support is dealt out evenly from his comrades, namely by Andrew Leung’s complicated Sergei – an often erratic and welcome opposing force. 

The faceless villains themselves are given little to go by, which is unfortunate given the potential for some significant world-building within Lemon’s script, but in keeping its affairs small, Containment manages to focus more on what ultimately matters: entertainment. As a film, it always remains focussed on moving forward with its plotting, and if you can look beyond a slightly contrived final blow, the large majority of its action lands unexpectedly well, with an often excruciating – but always welcome – brutality. Containment may not be anything particularly new, but its fantastic command of the survival genre is enough to make it considerably entertaining. 

Containment (2015), directed by Neil Mcenery-West, originally screened as part of the East End Film Festival 2015.

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