Monday, August 31, 2015

A good calling-card movie, Neil Mcenery-West and David Lemon's CONTAINMENT, hits DVD

As TrustMovies understands it, the term calling-card film implies that the goods at hand (often due to impressive work done on a minuscule budget), though not a movie that will set the box-office aflame nor even cause much hoo-hah amongst critics, remains good enough to serve as an entryway for the filmmaker toward further and usually bigger-budget efforts. Exactly such a work, to my mind anyway, is the new sci-fi-thriller-horror opus, CONTAINMENT, directed by Neil Mcenery-West (shown below), from a story by Mr. West and a screenplay from David Lemon.

The movie came to my attention via a Great Britain-based publicist who informs me that Containment is actually receiving a U.S. DVD and digital debut in advance of its theatrical opening in Britain on September 11. Interesting move, this, and probably a smart one, as the movie is yet another in a genre already growing pretty tired: the apocalyptic virus tale -- which we've seen in everything from big-budget movies like Outbreak and Contagion to the Spanish [REC] series and its American remake(s), Quarantine , including even some odd Brit independents such as Citadel. as well as the fine French film, The Horde. (Many of these films may also be zombie movies, but they all stem from that apocalyptic virus.)

So here we are again -- this time without zombies, thank god, but with the usual, enclosed space scenario in which a disparate group of people are entrapped by the powers-that-be for reasons that are always withheld as long as possible to provoke tension and suspense. We have our "hero," Mark (played by Lee Ross, above), suddenly unable to leave his apartment, along with, or so it looks, everyone else in the building and maybe vicinity.

Soon a few of these "victims" grudgingly join forces and the small group of survivors (whom you just know probably won't) try to learn what's going on, even as they must save themselves from it. In the group are of course a couple of females including helpmeet Sally (Louise Brealey, above) and Hazmat Hazel (Pippa Nixon, below).

Also on hand is the required alpha male, embodied by Andrew Leung (below), last seen as the gorgeous, gay love interest in Lilting. Mr. Leung is as nasty and ferocious here as he was sweet and appealing there, so chalk another one up for acting versatility.

Rounding out the main group are also the requisite child (Gabriel Senior, below, left) and requisite elder (Sheila Reid, below, right), the latter of whom steals the movie outright. Ms Reid has a face, each line of which speaks volumes about everything from a life fully lived to memories hugely cherished. She is an actress nowhere near as well known as, say, Mirren or Dench or Atkins, but on the basis of what she gives us here, she ought to be, for she provides the heart, soul and smarts of the movie.

So, yes, the acting is just fine all 'round, but audiences don't flock to this kind of film for the acting. The direction and script are OK, too -- the former showing what Mcenery-West can do on a small budget, the latter offering up a by-now generic situation, along with fast-paced, believable dialog. Trouble is, it's all too been-there/done-that to be particularly satisfying. Plus, the strength of this horrible virus just isn't believably communicated -- not from character to character nor from filmmaker to audience -- so that, after awhile, we're being asked to take way too much on faith.

All this turns what might have been a better movie into just a so-so one. Still, as I say, there is certainly enough here to make us want to see what all these folk can do later on -- with a bigger budget and in maybe a more interesting genre. Meanwhile, Containment, from Vision Films and Bright Cold Day Films, hits the street on DVD tomorrow, September, 1st, after being available via digital platforms since August 1st (the movie will continue on digital during the coming month, as well).


Arion said...

Looks exactly like the kind of movie I always enjoy! By the way, I just read your post about While We're Young and it was great. You seem to be a bit of an expert in Noah Baumbach. Anyway, I also wrote about the film in my blog (wich I encourage you to visit):

I hope you enjoy my review, and please feel free to leave me a comment over there or add yourself as a follower (or both), and I promise I'll reciprocate.



James van Maanen said...

Thanks, Arion -- and I will definitely visit your blog and take a look around.