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September 9, 2015
This taut, psychological infection thriller occasionally succumbs to the joint ailments of stereotype-ridden characters and fatigued plotting, but for the most part delivers a brisk thrill.
Containment sees the residents of an anonymous tower block awake to find themselves sealed into their own homes, with no explanation, while hazmat-suited officials appear at ground level to set up a field hospital. With no answers offered by the authorities, people quickly take matters into their own hands, with predictably disastrous results.
Fear, paranoia and distrust rapidly rise to the surface, as the unfortunates caught in the middle begin to question both each other and the increasing threatening figures looming outside the building, while explanations remain few and far between.
At its core, Containment aims to be a study of the psychological effects of unexplained containment and isolation, exploring how people panic in the face of uncertainty. Unfortunately, an over-reliance on clichéd stereotypes among its central characters stops proceedings from ever ringing entirely true.
We have the violent, aggressive young male. The kindly, practical female nurse. The paranoid, nerdy conspiracy theorist. The tough-as-nails, chain-smoking granny. The mute, innocent child. There’s little here we haven’t seen before, again and again, and often done better.
The plot is similarly contrived, with awkward, unexplained contrivances clearly set up to enable specific set pieces. The front door of each flat is seemingly sealed up before the hazmat crew arrive, as are all of the exterior windows. 15 stories up. Just as inexplicably, the containment team disappears right as it all starts to go wrong, as if they simply got a bit bored of it all, in what might be the least plausible depiction of quarantine practice on film in years.
Despite these failings, there’s a lot to enjoy in Containment. Occasionally choppy editing aside, director Neil McEnery-West maintains consistent tension, keeping enough mystery to avoid boredom, while using time-honoured moments of mob violence to spice things up every once in a while. He also resists the temptation towards the someone-gets-sick-but-keeps-it-secret plot point endemic to the genre, for which due credit must be given.
An anticlimactic ending lets the film down, and doesn’t carry the dramatic heft seemingly intended, but otherwise Containment is a worthy inclusion to Britain’s burgeoning industry in low-budget tower block thrillers.
Containment is released in UK cinemas on September 11th