Director: Neil Mcenery-West
Principal Cast: Lee Ross, Sheila Reid, Andrew Leung, Gabriel Senior, Louise Brealey, William Postlethwaite and Pippa Nixon
Release Date: 11 September 2015 (UK)
Plot: Residents in a tower block find themselves sealed inside their homes, with no access to utilities such as water and electricity, no communication with the outside world, and no explanation as to why. With time running out and very few options, they are left with the choice of staying put, or working together to find out why they have been sealed inside, and escape.
Containment is the award-winning debut feature film from director Neil Mcenery-West, demonstrating how a blockbuster budget and household names are not essential in the furtherance and adaptation of the survival thriller genre.
The story begins in a tower block flat, where we meet Mark (Eastenders’ Lee Ross), a recently-divorced artist who has hit a rut in both his work and family life, as he awakens to find his home without power, communication, and later, without escape.
Mark soon realises that the situation is much worse than first anticipated and that his interrupted life may be at stake, with the explosive introduction of neighbour Sergei (Andrew Leung) and younger brother Nicu (Gabriel Senior) into his home, disclosing that their own flat is also sealed from the outside. A glance out of the window reveals the now-isolated tower block to be the target of an intimidating quarantine operation, where those who don’t co-operate are killed without delay to prevent further contamination.
“A FRESH, INVENTIVE AND SUSPENSEFUL THRILLER”
Joined by other panicked neighbours, including reminiscent Enid (Benidorm’s Sheila Reid), nurse Sally (Sherlock’s Louise Brealey) and Sally’s sceptical boyfriend Aiden (William Postlethwaite), the unlikely cluster of ordinary people (who have no idea of whether they are infected or not) decide that they will not be kept contained and uninformed, and must use their initiative to escape, avoiding both the anonymous intruders in bright orange hazmat suits, and the virus they claim to be quarantining.
Despite some known faces from British television, Containment‘s key cast are fresh and largely unfamiliar with well acted parts, contributing to the film’s credibility, which stands high due to its believable suggestion of contamination from an unidentified disease – a rational and very real fear.
We have seen many elements of Containment’s simple concept before, and it may seem slow to audiences who associate viruses with zombies and intense action scenes, in the way of 2002’s horror, 28 Days Later, or 2008’s ‘found-footage’ film Quarantine. However, it is in this way that Containment cleverly twists the theme with its original interpretation: despite the threat of a virus, it is the unknown, the power and position that the strangers have because of their protective suits, and the ‘man versus man’ nature of events that the protagonists (and audiences) are invited to fear most.
While many thrillers and horrors take place in ominous buildings during stormy dark nights, Containment manages to frighten in the more unusual setting of an unassuming housing block during daylight – a similar set-up to 2012’s thriller Tower Block, with its sober estate backdrop, and assemblage of mismatched characters thrown together one morning by a bizarre incident.
In a further subversion of the stereotypes we are used to seeing, the film frequently contrasts nature such as flora and animals with gritty, man-made objects and structures, and the dirty orange sheen of hazmat suits and equipment.
At 76 minutes, Containment isn’t dragged out, nor is it so fleeting that it feels as though it has been cut short, with a clear, well-written script and story. It doesn’t waste a second, each of which is filled with tension, whether the characters are facing perilous obstacles, or their emotions are fighting for space within the limiting walls of the building they are trapped within.
While some questions are left unanswered regarding the true nature of the virus and the state of the world these events occur in, this perhaps intentional decision to forego further development is compensated by Containment’s intense character focus.
This intensity alludes to Mcenery-West’s experience with short films, as we viewers feel the bewilderment and ambiguity radiating from this mismatched group confined to their homes, and the magnitude and claustrophobia of an otherwise ordinary environment.
These characters are relatable and become likable, despite the mere glimpse we have of their lives and who they are as people, before they are forced to act or react in order to survive. By the end of the film, many characters show a different side of themselves in such a time of crisis and desperation, and the roles they assume are a far cry away from where we see them at the beginning.
Containment is a thriller with a great human angle to play on: the true threat is not the airborne virus, but the behaviour that it elicits in all those reacting to it.
Words by Shelby Stapleton