Oh how I wish the world were filled with movies that were just rich on ideas and that alone. I wish that ideas drove every movie. But that just isn’t the case… well, good ideas anyway. Well, Neil Mcenery West and David Lemon have taken a clever idea and tightly woven a neat little story here for us to enjoy.
One of the key secrets to how I find movies like this one is by searching Rottentomatoes for movies that have a very high critic score, and usually a lower fan rating. Currently, Containment is rated at 100% among critics, and 40% among fans. Which, I might add, is the perfect ratio. “But why wouldn’t you want two 100’s?!?” I hear you asking. Well, movies that usually get two 100’s are usually enormous commercial successes. Like, maybe, I don’t know, Avatar? But when audiences aren’t sure what to make of a film… oh man, that’s when I’m in my sweet spot. Z for Zachariah was another movie in this same sweet spot. Enemy too was in this same trough of goodness. Loved by critics. And questions all around from viewers everywhere.
If you have never heard of the movie Containment before, I’ll keep the overview very spoiler-free. But from then on, we are diving into the bowels of this movie like nobody’s business. So Mark our protagonist, (I wasn’t even sure he had a name? While I was watching I really didn’t feel like he did. It wasn’t like it really mattered… that is for sure. This isn’t that sort of a movie!) finds himself locked in his apartment building. The apartment buildings are very distinct, and evoke a very Cabrini Green feel to them… which were the projects of Chicago that were torn down a few years ago. When I lived in Chicago and drove by Cabrini Green they exuded this sort of illness. Tall. Imposing. Distinct. With an air of poison to them. And that is how the apartment buildings of Containment feel to me when you first see them. Fourca identical apartment buildings standing higher than anything else around it. And they speak of ill portent lying just beneath the surface.
Our protagonist isn’t aware of his predicament at first because he is more baffled that he slept in late. He had somewhere very important to be, and yet, here he was… sleeping late at his terrible apartment. As he begins to wake up, and he attempts to make breakfast, he starts to grasp a bit of the gravity of his new reality. The power is out. The windows are all sealed up. And then he discovers that his door has been thoroughly epoxied shut. And it is our protagonist’s job to discover what is going on, and find away to stay alive long enough to escape.
I’m guessing that if you have not yet had a chance to see the movie (which can be found here or here now. And here and here later for purchase) you should probably move along, because I plan to discuss this movie at a deeper level than I would have wanted to understand going in. But trust me, it’s a gem of a little film. Very ambitious for such a low budget. And as I’ve discussed at length here on this blog – I adore ambitiously low budget movies. Not convinced you ought to see it yet? Check out this fantastic plug by Sight & Sound… I totally agree.
“The real power of Containment lies in Mcenery-West’s direction, which demonstrates a visual wisdom that’s truly rare in a first-time director. With a shoestring budget, he’s created a taut yet understated environment for the mystery that’s refusing to unfold, eschewing clichés such as shaky-cam or rapid-fire cutting for long takes and well-placed, well-crafted sound. It’s exciting to think what he could do with a little more cash and a lot more space.” – Sight & Sound
The Inner Workings of Containment
Our protagonist is quickly joined by neighbors Hazel, Sally, Sergei, Enid, Nicu, etc. – all in desperate need of assistance. They decided they were coming to visit Mark and his apartment whether he wanted them to or not. They tore their way through the drywall well before Mark really had much of a clue as to what was going on. And just like that we have ourselves a nice little assemblage of misfits and clueless apartment complex dwellers who are all equally confused about what is going on.
Details slowly begin to pull together that hint towards some sort of lock down. Is it a military lock down? A safety measure? Or, wait, what are those guys in orange suits doing? Eventually our group of misfits start getting pelted with announcements over the tannoy (one of my favorite British words… didn’t think I’d ever get an excuse to use it. Hah. Basically is just a PA system) telling them all to “Stay calm…”
But in other areas of the apartments, it doesn’t seem like many are doing that.
There is the man in the window across the way banging effectually, against the glass in his apartment. There is the runner that tackles a man in the orange suit and runs for it and is then shot. Again and again, it seems like the situation is quickly unraveling on these men in orange. But then the Orange Men begin coming into the buildings and pulling out people and taking them against their will. And as the escalations continue, our protagonists are helplessly left to watch them come. Until they get the great idea to break out and attack them first.
Information is the name of this particular game in Containment. And when they get their hands on one of them, Sally, you’d think that the pieces would start falling into place. We learn that there is a sickness. We learn that it is nearly always fatal. We learn that the sickness is air born. And we realize that we won’t ever learn much more than that because this particular Orange Man (or woman) started just a day ago. Which means the screenwriter knew exactly what he was doing. Keep the information as far away as possible in this tightly wound little movie. Keep the audience guessing.
Conclusions & Thoughts on Containment
As the movie unspools and unravels in equal measure, we begin to wonder about the larger world and what is going on. Our newly captured Orange Man, (woman) hinted that some sort of contagion began spreading a couple weeks ago – and her agency put the kibosh on any sort of announcement letting the general populace know what was going on. But something went wrong and the illness continued to spread.
As the protagonists drop, one by one, from various chaos and incoming danger, we start to realize that there is a whole world of trouble just beyond the fences and the gates. As Mark sends Nicu on ahead, we hear that the containment zone has been pulled back, and that the illness had spread.
The thing that really made me enjoy this movie was the unsaid tid-bits. Like for example, I wondered if maybe the Orange Agency had spread the disease intentionally. Had they cordoned off this area in hopes of studying the illness? Was it a larger cover up for something else? But there is so little to go on here, no one could tell me I was wrong if I were to posit that this illness was global, and the only ones going to survive were the few people with mind enough to find bunny suits early enough. But, because this is me, and I always come to the table with some wacko theory to offer you, I’ll tell you the crazy theory I have about Containment.
I mean, I did promise you, “Containment Movie Explained and Reviewed” – so heck. Let’s swing for the fence a bit here.
I personally think that Containment was a psychological experiment being conducted on the inhabitants of the towers. It was a study on the modern psychosis of man – the animal nature of us all. Seriously, just hear me out. First question you have to ask yourself… was the illness even real? The fact that we only really saw like one one or two people coughing, or showing any sort of signs of illness makes me think that this could have all been lies. The “dead” that we saw could have been killed by the Orange Men. Or fake for that matter since we see so little actually happening.
Remember the conversation we have with Enid (by the way, she was in Terry Giliam’s Brazil all those years ago. Yes, you are welcome for that tid-bit. I’m sure it was bothering you too like it was bothering me! hahah.) was it on the roof? The one where she talks about how they would have been honorable back in the day. They would have undergone this containment with a resolve and a stiff upper lip that was missing today. That the people today were mad, and had zero regard for others? Remember that? Science experiment.
The main reason I think it’s bogus was because of the way that the doors and windows were locked. Remember that? Consider this for a moment. I just sat and counted the windows and the levels to each apartment building – and I would guess – that there is something like 720 different apartment buildings in all four buildings. 720 doors to epoxy. 720 * what? 5 windows? to seal shut. 3, 4 thousand? All in one night? While everyone is asleep? That would require a level of coordination and organization that is just baffling to consider. And all without anyone catching on and sounding the alarm? You’d need a team ready for each floor to work simultaneously and immediately. And even with that, it’d be iffy. No? So, unless this effort is supported and back by some rogue government agency with hundreds and hundreds of Orange Men ready and willing to pull this off together.
Alright, even if I am wrong, and there is an illness… it means that there are thousands and thousands of Orange Men behind the fences and out of the line of sight. You can’t shut down apartments like this easily. There is something much bigger going on here. Much much bigger. What are your thoughts? Am I smoking crack like usual? Tell us all in the comments below. Can’t wait to hear from you all.