Mark Reviews Movies

The Chamber (2018)


2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Ben Parks

Cast: Johannes Kuhnke, Charlotte Salt, James McArdle, Elliot Levey, David Horovitch, Christian Hillborg

MPAA Rating: Not rated

Running Time: 1:28

Release Date: 2/23/18 (limited)

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Capsule review by Mark Dujsik | February 22, 2018

There isn't much to be done with the setting of The Chamber. It's an old, cramped submersible, with limited room to move. Writer/director Ben Parker, though, uses those limitations of space and potential drama to his advantage, setting the confinement of the vessel against a story in which our knowledge of what's happening is limited.

He also knows that the location is inherently terrifying, and his screenplay keeps adding complications that make the nature of this submersible an escalating threat. At one point, the vessel is stuck at the bottom of the sea, wedged between unseen obstacles, deprived of its main source of power, and slowly flooding.

The movie's tension is as much in what we can't see as in what we do see. Parker's camera remains trapped with its characters, with only glimpses of the outside world through obscure images from the sub's external cameras. Anything could be out there—over 300 feet underwater. For the characters, the one thing that is out there, should any number of things go wrong inside or outside the sub, is almost-certain death—from drowning, to pressure sickness, to the bends. There's also the matter of increasing conflict between the characters about which to worry.

The sub is sent on an expedition to find something off the coast of North Korea. Its pilot Mats (Johannes Kuhnke) is a civilian, but the vessel has been commandeered by an American military team, led by Edwards (Charlotte Salt). The other team members are Parks (James McArdle), the muscle, and Denholm (Elliot Levey), the tech guy.

Much of what's happening is kept hidden from Mats—and, by extension, us. The initial suspense is in the mystery of why this team would risk tensions with a hostile nation, as well as learning everything that can and—we know—will go wrong with the submersible.

Once things do go wrong for the vessel and with the crew, the restrictions of the space and the details of the characters start to wear the already-thin story even thinner. The Chamber quickly turns from a story about surviving the elements to one of surviving the mental breakdown of one of the characters. There simply isn't much to do within this space, and after a while, it becomes clear that Parker has become stymied by his self-imposed, if admirable, restrictions.

Copyright © 2018 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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