After a short film about a young woman trapped inside a building, Ben Parker’s first feature film is a similarly claustrophobic experience. The Chamber is a survival thriller with political undertones, following a small submarine pilot and a Special Operations team as they become trapped under the Yellow Sea, with no help and very little time to escape.
It is questionable what the film sets out to do exactly: is it to thrill with tense and rapidly escalating conflicts between its four main characters, or to frighten and bring out our inner claustrophobia through the empathy we build during the journey? Perhaps more importantly, it is the mixture of these elements, masterfully confined to the restricted space that makes The Chamber an exciting picture.
There is an ominous, heavily political introduction that sets up the film. This montage hints at the escalation of global conflicts to a world-threatening level. However, as intriguing as Parker’s ideas are to provide a political backdrop to the story, his standpoint remains overly ambiguous throughout The Chamber, as the origins of the Special Ops team and the submarine base ship are never properly contextualised.
The film uses its surprisingly short duration (88 minutes) productively: action and tense moments follow each other as the tight script does not let the viewer rest for a second; everything that can go wrong does so. Conversely, this fast-paced narrative distracts from the passing of time, giving the illusion of a 24-like action thriller rather than that of a film in which time, or more importantly lack thereof, is so crucial to survival.
The use of the incredibly confined submarine space as the main place of action is where the bravado of Parker and his team emerges. As the director discussed at the Glasgow Film Festival’s Q&A screening, everything from the pool imitating sea conditions to the submarine and its machinery were purposely built for filming. The editing and camerawork in scenes inside the submarine bring the narrative to life, evoking a strong feeling of claustrophobia as the camera copes with the rising levels of water and loss of space in the vehicle. The achievement of these thrilling sensations is where the strength of The Chamber lies, showcasing Parker’s formidable talents.