The Chamber

Review by Jack Godwin

Directed by

Ben Parker

Starring

Charlotte Salt James McArdle Johannes Kuhnke

Anticipation.

A debut feature with an interesting premise.

Enjoyment.

A film that frustrates more than it thrills.

In Retrospect.

Feels like there’s a bigger, better film itching to break free.

A hostile situation on a deep sea sub off the coast of North Korea – it’s sadly not as fun as it sounds.

The world is teetering on the edge of doom. So says a montage of real-life footage that plays over the opening passages of Ben Parker’s The Chamber, highlighting the fragility of international relations. The precarious global situation even impacts a small submarine as it surveys the Yellow Sea on behalf of a private company looking to establish oil rigs in the area.

When the authority over his ship is given over to a special ops team, led by Charlotte Salt’s Edwards, with an undisclosed mission, Mats (Johannes Kuhnke) is not told who these people are or why they have taken command. This debut feature is quick to point out the wider geopolitical forces at play, but like Mats we are left in the dark over who these characters really are.

Early on the camera enters the cramped, enclosed space of the submersible, at which point the film becomes crucially dependent on the strength of the four main actors – as well as Parker’s ability to build a compelling experience from a minimalist setting. This environment immediately lends itself to high tension, as the old vessel creaks and groans in tandem with body movement. Yet despite all the monitors, gauges and switches on show, there’s never a clear sense of the physical dimensions of the craft. This becomes more of an issue later, as Parker’s over-reliance on rapid cutting takes hold.

There’s a lot of technical skill on show here. The lighting and cinematography make excellent use of the water’s visual interaction with the luminous equipment. The use of sound is also effective, with the pulsing percussive score – composed by Manic Street Preachers’ frontman James Dean Bradfield – adding energy to scenes that are otherwise lacking. The main problem is the script, which throws together familiar archetypes in repetitive cycles of artificial conflict and unearned camaraderie.

The Chamber is at its strongest when it focuses on the hopelessness of the premise, especially when it slips deeper into claustrophobic horror terrain. There’s little commitment to any particular tone – it never leans too far into idle B-movie pleasures, nor is the material elevated with nuanced character work. The context and the devious revelations of the crew’s real purpose end up amounting to little more than background noise.

Published 10 Mar 2017

Tags: Ben Parker Johannes Kuhnke

Anticipation.

A debut feature with an interesting premise.

Enjoyment.

A film that frustrates more than it thrills.

In Retrospect.

Feels like there’s a bigger, better film itching to break free.

Read More

Kill List

By Dan Brightmore

British director Ben Wheatley delivers a future classic in the form of this white-knuckle thriller.

review LWLies Recommends

Force Majeure

By Neil Young

This ski-based family drama from Swedish writer/director Ruben Östlund doesn’t quite reach its intended peak.

review

Black Sea

By David Jenkins

This old-school, undersea chiller starring Jude Law offers a sophisticated and moving exploration into the evils of greed.

review

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, LWLies has been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design