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Containment is a low budget wonder. Interesting ideas, and even bigger story left unsaid. Looking forward to seeing more from these guys.
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This is the moment when I bring to you oldschool movies that are mind blowingly good. Too few people know about these movies, and I am bound and determined to get this old flicks more visibility and acclaim – even if it kills me! Gah. But yeah, today’s Flashback café is Containment – a brilliant, über clever film that couldn’t be more appropriate for the dumpster fire that is 2020. So get your spouse, find it over on Prime, or Play… and buckle up. Everyone ready? Let’s do this – Containment Movie Explained and Reviewed!

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. So let’s get to it shall we? Containment Movie Explained and Reviewed!

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.


Containment Overview

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.

Containment Explained

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.

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25 Responses

  1. Jae

    Brah, the name of the captured lady was Hazel not Sally. Why do you think that all the people on that Heli were children?

    • Abbie

      I remember Hazel saying that the vaccine wouldn’t have enough in it for them. I reckon they only had vaccines for children.

  2. Landon

    You are so far off on your thoughts of this movie,… First off, Many movies leave you wondering how the studio was passing off things that were impossible to do… You can look at even the highest budget movies and wonder why Gandalf didn’t fly Frodo to Mount Doom, with the Eagles to destroy the ring of power….

    Your Analogy of the death’s being hoax. All of the dead were still dead, in the same places at the end of the movie. What about the old lady??? she started having a hard time breathing and then was dead the next day… What about the hostage ??? When they ripped into her suit, she went directly for the serum… Even at the end… Why did the guy give the kid a shot to his shoulder if this were all a hoax mental game???

    NO… I can’t tell you what the writer had in mind with this film. If it were the type that were set up for a “Containment II” we could all wait till the second movie to see what it was all about, but, I am sure the movie is going to leave us here.. frustrated to where the hell this was all going….

    The acting was GREAT… The story line lagged and pointless in the end. Jae is on the correct track! As what Jay, likely though, as I am sure most people did think… “WHY IS IT ALL CHILDREN WHO LIVED” Your synopsis would have been better pointed to government wanting to restart the world. The old woman made comment several times that things were not like they were in the old days… All of the kids were taken away, and I would urge you to watch the ending again…. The boy’s reaction is not one of sadness or fear… The end focuses on his face and a look of almost hypnotic and even a hint of relief. “What is that all about???” Sorry… You are WAY OFF on your view…. The hints, the writer is trying to deliver, are in the movie, I am sure…. I would bet my last dollar on what the old woman was saying and the fact the only survivor’s were children. I would even say that the writer had reason to what was going on in the helicopter and the last shot on the boy had some hidden meaning…

    • Jo

      Now that I have read your comment, I just realized that the kid was never really fearful throughout the whole movie. Perhaps the children were the ones who sealed everything shut in the middle of the night. Hmm…

    • Nathan

      I believe that the shot for the kid was a sedative. The kids could be those who are immuned to the virus, but why? My current theory is that the government has planned the virus outbreak, given vaccines to some of the kids earlier (since kids are given a lot of inoculations), and release the virus in the vicinity. After the outbreak and in-building incarceration, the children are the witnesses of the disaster of humanity’s wilderness.

  3. Harold

    I watched this on TV last night. After it ended, I thought I must have missed some vital clue – like the origami figure in Blade Runner – I didn’t spot the significance when I watched the film. Thought I would have a look to see if anyone else had it figured. Looks like everyone else is in the dark also. Was it significant that the kid never spoke? Was that just to crank up the creepy? I guess the space suit was a present for Mark’s own child.

    I think the fact that there were only children surviving without suits was key. I guess it was Armageddon, and only children will survive. We witnessed it through a very narrow window. Although that does not really fit with the gluing up the windows and doors.

  4. D

    I just finished watching this movie for the first time. As the ending is very vague, I was curious to seek other’s thoughts. From what I’ve read I get a feeling that most are looking too closely at details and not imagining themselves as the writer of the script. Personally I believe this film is meant to cast a shadow on racism, xenophobia, and mob mentality. I think they purposely left out specific details to see what the audience automatically jumped to conclusions about, like a mirror to our own flaws. The purpose of the movie is to show humanity that yes, we are typically as individuals 95% in the dark about most things, but those that carry out orders are also 90% in the dark and should not be considered the enemy. This movie merely wants us to question our inner morals. It points out that some “conspiracy” theories aren’t irrational, and even those on your side can destroy your life. But blindly assuming a person is bad just because of the way they look, combined with mob mentality is just genocide.

    • Q

      Racism and xenophobia? That doesn’t make much sense. Mob mentality, of course, but I don’t see any support for the rest of it.

      I think that the movie is simply about how the truth of a person is revealed when their survival is threatened. I don’t think the amount of time it would take to seal all the windows and doors to that many apartments is supposed to be considered- I think belief was being asked to be suspended, there- or that it was some kind of mass experiment: there were too many examples like Hazel’s syringe for that to make sense.

      I would guess that the reason the boy never talked was because the boy’s role was as an observer, watching the civilized veneer of people slip away. Maybe that’s why the writer had him wearing an astronaut’s suit: he’s alone in a society which is alien to him. Perhaps all the children at the end was attempting to say that only children are uncorrupted and savable.

  5. D2

    There was spraying early on, and later. The spraying was meant to take out folks. However, perhaps the congation was somehow targeted at adults only? Several people in the movie talked about them carrying away the children. And at the end only children were left. It is possible the intention all along was to take out the adults, put the children in education re-education camps–containing them. In this scenario the contagion was introduced intentionally by government agents. Which would explain why it was necessary to close up the windows as well, to make sure everyone in the buildings was exposed. Nicu was the most likely to be exposed, being in the same room as the lady, but may have been immune by design.

  6. PacificRim03

    Why did the boy never talk? What was the message on the phone at the end? Why did the boy keep the picture of the origional main character and his family? Why did the boys brother let himself get taken by the mob right near the exit door, when we all know he could have gotten away?

  7. Anon

    Now we know why the calcium level is so high in European water — to secretly seal the doors in bad films like these.

  8. gavin

    IM sorry but what’s even the point of the film its utterly boring maybe some others do not agree but please please please ! Make another decent horror film

  9. Olga Gladimire

    I loved the movie soooooooo much. I give it 2 thumbs up and will buy premier tickets for the next one!!! The acting was great and so were the actors. The saddest part of the movie was when the closing credit came on :(((

  10. Donald Twanto

    I can’t help but feel this film is all political allegory aimed in some part at the modern day social services in Britain. We are told there is a ‘disease’, while never seeing anyone die (from it). A disease of the mind? Children are the only ones seen to be worth rescuing – in fact, any number of adult lives can be sacrificed in order to save a child. At the end of the film we are greeted by a substantial group of ‘saved’ children, all safe, but held in isolation. Safe from what – or rather ‘who’? Is the ‘disease’ child abuse? Are the HAZMATs the over-eager social services that rip families apart sometimes on the flimsiest of evidence? In a distorted world where all adults are considered a risk, social order is flimsy – the more likely basis of Enid’s comments – and ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ is the preferred term of engagement for the modern state, then political allegory feels the right context to me. Why else would the man whose daughter had been taken be willing to risk his life – and kill – to prevent another child being taken for no apparent reason. He is the one -a single father – who has realised that they only come for the children. Tightly acted and scripted. Thought provoking.

  11. Chardonnay Boyd

    I just thought the kids were immune or even carriers of the contagion. None of them spoke, Hazel said it goes to the throat. A lot of pain and stuff. You stop talking and coughing. Then it attacks the body itself. It maybe stopped at the kids Vocal cords. Muting them all. I know if I was a child, I would be crying and screaming for my mommy and daddy. None them were screaming or crying. Nicu did cry but he didn’t really make a sound. I just think the kids are the vaccine potential and a had a better immune system than the adults.

  12. Shelby

    Did anyone make note of how everyone died? All indicative of their personalities. Mark died trying to save Nicu, Enid died in her sleep (that is to say she wasn’t fighting, and she believed passivity was the correct approach to the situation), Sally died trying to convince people not to use violence, Aiden died because he ran away/has no backbone, Sergei died because of his overuse of violence, is that everyone?

    Did anyone catch that Nicu’s name is an acronym for neonatal intensive care unit- hospital unit designed specifically for the care of children? Yes, NICUs are supposed to be only for babies but unless Nicu is a common British name, and perhaps even if it is, I think this was done on purpose. Regardless, he survived, and I thought FOR SURE at the end that it was going to be revealed that he was the one carrying the virus since he didn’t or couldn’t talk. Maybe that’s a possible interpretation. Unless specifically told to the viewer, however, I didn’t expect children to be immune like others are claiming, since it’s children and the elderly who have weaker immune systems than adults, generally speaking. This leads me to believe that this was an experiment or at least a ruse to gather the children. The “why” is up for debate because I don’t have a clue. Donald Twanto’s comment resonates with me- I think he might have hit it right on the head. Less about the literal meaning of the film and more about the allegory. Good stuff.

  13. anonymous

    #fakenews If you going to say you are going to explain something then get facts if it is just your thoughts and opinions then say so….. Your explanation of your thoughts on the ending basically ignored most things that happened in the movie…. Like maybe we watched different movies…

  14. Taylor

    Hey T.V
    Great question mate. Maybe I should do an update with thoughts at the bottom of the post. Hrmmmm. Because I have a ton now. Man do I have a ton of new perspective on this film.

  15. Arifa

    I think alot of people around the world are watching this movie right now….
    Things can happen in real life .
    Were they preparing us for something in 2016 .
    Contagion in 2011 is exactly about what is happening today.

  16. KDG

    I purchased this movie maybe last year or two years ago. Cheap Walmart $3.98 big basket where the cashier lines begin. Something sci-fi, maybe like Charlton Heston’s Omega man or Will Smith’s I am Legend. I was a little disappointed so I watched it a second time to see what I missed in the story line and as I put myself with these characters I realized that the possibility of this happening today is no longer someone’s creative imagination except with walking or running dead people who want to eat my flesh. The coronavirus which is worldwide is real and is happening now. I’m just drawing a conclusion to my comment on the movie Containment. With the good sense that most of humanity has, be aware this virus is real, but don’t panic, follow the instructions that our health experts give us because in the weeks to come WE WILL come through this and learn from mistakes made so we are better prepared for a next time. My apology if I bored you.

  17. Dave

    Wow I am glad I’m not the only one who watched this movie during the coronavirus quarantine. The ending baffled me, that’s why I am looking for insight in this blog. Anyway, the movie was great and I thought it’s a realistic and humanizing portrayal of zombies, well not because of the virus itself but how people will act violent during crisis and despair. But I am still confused with the ending :(

  18. Lisa

    So I watched this last night on Prime after watching I’m Thinking of Ending Things and while it’s most definitely not that kind of quality film, I didn’t think it was terrible. It’s currently got a 2.5 star rating going on Amazon but I think I’d give it a solid 3. It kept my attention even when I was tired but I didn’t find it to be quite as deep in message as you did. But that’s not to say you or anyone else is wrong. We all take away different things from films and relate to them differently. Watching this film during a pandemic really makes you think, however. The ending sort of confused me but other than that I found it pretty easy to comprehend. Except for the mute boy. So if anyone knows what that was about, I’d love to know. And what was on the phone?

  19. Monica

    I’m going to go waayy out on a limb and say maybe the children were aliens, and the orange suit people were taking back the children that had been implanted in the human race to survive. Maybe the aliens couldn’t procreate any longer for some reason, and so they needed humans help for it. Lol yes, I know that is reaching really far


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