Movie Review: “The Chamber” (2018)

The Ben Parker written and directed film, “The Chamber,” is not for anyone with a fear of enclosed spaces. Much of the film’s 87 minute runtime is devoted wholly to a small group of people on board a no-longer-top-of-the-line submarine in North Korean waters on a mission that is going very badly.

Without spoiling anything (it’s clear from the film’s poster and the published summary) – an explosion flips the sub upside down, it starts leaking, and the whole thing goes from bad to worse. What was bad in the first place? Well, the military folks on their super-secret mission were clashing not only with the one guy who knew how to pilot the sub but also each other.

Parker’s film, which stars Johannes Bah Kuhnke, Charlotte Salt, James McArdle, and Elliot Levey, is all about ratcheting up the tension within this small space. It is all about how different personalities, even ones which have worked together in the past, might clash under difficult circumstances. It is all about who we really are on the inside and what we do in our most desperate moments.

If that seems like a lot for a movie to cover, it is. Perhaps because it is limited to one small location, however, Parker and company do a relatively good job with it. It is true that there moments where one feels as though a character or two could be explained in slightly more detail, but that task is a difficult one for a film that is very much dedicated to existing in this one small space.

Fans of “MacGyver”-like experiences will unquestionably enjoy the group’s various thoughts on how to escape their rapidly shrinking tomb. And the film’s ending… well, saying anything about the movie’s close and the survivors’ final attempts to leave the vessel would really be ruining the experience.

One of the questions which audiences will almost certainly ask themselves while watching “The Chamber” is just what they would do in such a situation. The palpable claustrophobia the movie imparts drags those watching into the proceedings and forces the question upon them. It is the sort of affair which will have one question exactly why those on the sub act as they do while still believing that the circumstances may not have the characters operating at full mental capacity.

Much credit must go to Parker and cinematographer Benjamin Pritchard for being able to keep the audience visually intrigued as events unfold on board the submarine. Additionally, one can imagine that the cast faced big challenges during the shoot as well.

In fact, “The Chamber” is as interesting for the story it tells as it is for the questions it brings forth. Above I mentioned audiences wondering what they would do in such a situation, but audiences will also question just what had to go into making this movie and how long the actors had to stay in the water and what they did to keep warm. The questions go on and on.

There is nothing in “The Chamber” that will make one cry out at just how excellent it is, but it is a movie that is regularly interesting, packs a lot into 87 minutes, and does not overstay its welcome. As such, it is a good example of a particular genre of thriller and those who aren’t claustrophobic or afraid of water very well might find it interesting.

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photo credit: Cinedigm

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