REVIEW: The Chamber
– By Sooz Webb
Remember how happy The Beatles sounded when they regaled us with tales of their Yellow Submarine? Tranquil and idyllic wasn’t it? Take that beautiful concept, and imagine it’s compressing in on you, crushing you with it’s inconceivable weight. Suffocating you with it’s inexorable bleakness. Pretty intense huh? That’s just a drop in the ocean, in Ben Parker’s claustrophobic nautical nightmare The Chamber.
When submersible craft pilot Mats finds his rickety rig commandeered by a US special ops team, tension mounts as opinions clash, facts are withheld, and a power struggle over who’s top dog leads to an explosion, resulting in the ship overturning and taking on water at the bottom of the Yellow Sea. Adding insult to injury, the American’s vessel, situated in waters controlled by North Korea, has been bordered, so any chance of outside assistance is gone. Stranded, and facing impossible odds, the human drama begins to unfold, as paranoia, panic and delirium takes hold of the crew. A battle to survive ensues, as the realization that not everyone will make it out alive becomes a stark reality.
It’s not often these days, that we see a film of this scope being made. And by that, I mean in such a tiny, confined area. All of the action takes place within a space where I’m pretty sure the phrase ‘not enough room to swing a cat’ was invented, and quite frankly, if they’d taken a feline on board, it would have only added to the oppressive atmosphere. The tension is high, a fact that can be attributed to the sterling performances of its ensemble cast. Working with slightly dodgy dialogue, Johannes Kuhnke’s level headed Mats is the perfect buffer for Charlotte Salts overly assertive Red. Two captains, with differing opinions on how to undertake a mission, wrestle with the concept that time and tide wait for no man, and that the longer they stay submerged, the less likely it is that anyone will survive. Adding to a powder keg of a situation, is the fiery Parks, played by James McArdle. His stubborn refusal to corroborate with the team heightens anxieties, adding to the overriding sense of menace within the tub. Elliot Levey, who gives a gentle and emotive performance as tech-guy Denholm, is unfortunately identified as a redshirt from the off, his lack of black ops uniform, a visual clue to his characters inevitable status.
As a feature length debut for writer/director Ben Parks, the inventiveness and ingenuitive thinking that’s gone into creating this film is incredibly impressive. Working to a limited budget plays to the films strength, keeping it small, tight and incredibly compelling. While most of the drama comes from the interplay between the cast, there are unexpected moments which catch you off guard, and a jump scare or two for good measure. The films sense of desolation is underpinned by James Dean Bradfield’s gloomy score. Subtly washing over you, or creating chaotic atmosphere, it elevates an already frantic situation to extreme levels.
A slow start gives way to an overwhelming disaster in the drink, with captivating performances and sharp direction literally chucking us into the deep end of the action. An uncomfortable parable about human endurance, which would make the hardiest salty dog queasy with anticipation. Taut, and full of suspense, The Chamber is a gripping thriller which engages and enthralls, a horror which shows us the hell in high water.