Mark (Lee Ross) is a struggling artist who feels he really should have made his breakthrough by now, considering he is nearing middle age and a divorcee father of one, living in a tower block in a quiet but not exactly swanky part of the city. But as if the regular letdowns of his life were not bad enough, today he wakes to find the electricity and water have stopped working, which means no morning cuppa for a start, especially as the fridge isn’t on anymore and the milk has gone off. Pausing briefly to note the resident across the court who is banging on his window for some reason, Mark gets dressed and is about to head off to meet with his ex when she calls him and demands to know where he is… then he notices his front door has been glued shut.
It was microcosm time again with Containment, a low budget science fiction thriller that made a virtue of its cramped location and lack of funds to spend on special effects to amp up the claustrophobia that would come from being stuck in the same place for so long, not by choice, but by order of the authorities who it was compulsory to be suspicious of in movies such as this. Being a very modern take on how people don’t like to be told what to do anymore, it posited a worst case scenario when it was clear those in charge just didn’t trust the hoi polloi and were more prepared to let them die than allow them access to the information that might save their lives. They would say, of course, they were trying to save everyone else’s lives except yours.
That’s down to your life being expendable since it’s too late to rescue you from the peril you’re in, a sickening feeling of uselessness David Lemon’s script capitalised on to appeal to the malaise in society that either has you believing the government doesn’t care about you at all and are simply herding you from work to home and letting you out for the odd bit of letting off steam in what leisure time you’re allotted or cares all too much, to the extent that it is wrapping you in so much cotton wool that the restrictions of the nanny state have clamped down on anything that might permit you free expression. Whichever way that goes, you end up in the same place, well and truly messed up by the twenty-first century.
For a while you wonder if there’s going to be a twist here, in that it’s not as straightforward as it appears and in fact there’s no risk of physical infection, the contamination is purely mental, that notion that your worst fears have been confirmed merely by a virulent rumour and that’s all that is necessary to tip the community, nay, the country over the edge into chaos. Any chance of that high concept is rather scuppered when the hazmats show up – the what? Officials in “hazardous material” protective suits, that’s what, coloured a tasteless bright orange to indicate what a rum lot they are, and making their presence felt by restricting the residents’ movement, though initially they won’t share the reasons why. That said, if you’ve ever seen a virus movie you’ll be way ahead of them.
As indeed are Mark and the others who gather in his home after smashing down part of his living room wall, a rather over-violent young man called Sergei (Andrew Leung) who wields the hammer, a nervous nurse called Sally (Louise Brealey), his elderly immediate neighbour Enid (Sheila Reid), an irritating conspiracy theorist called Aiden (William Postlethwaite) who is no less annoying for being right after a fashion, and a silent young boy named Nicu (Gabriel Senior) who is traumatised by the unfolding crisis. Together they represent, as groups of worried citizens in these situations must, the strata of ordinary slobs stuck in matters they don’t understand, see anything from And Then There Were None to Chosen Survivors and way beyond, frictions arising as a result of their fears having to channel somewhere, until they are directed not internally but at the external threat. So much for the pop psychology: did Containment pull it off? It pretty much did, with a neat pace rattling through an hour and a quarter, observant performances and a little commentary should you want it, pessimistic to a point but not utterly bleak. Music by Graham Hadfield.