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The Chamber tries very hard to make a somewhat interesting idea feel boring and stale and only occasionally comes to life thanks to a few unintentionally hilarious moments.
Written and directed by Ben Parker (in his feature debut), The Chamber revolves around a special ops unit, who commandeer a commercial research vessel and its submersible to locate a mysterious item at the bottom of the Yellow Sea. When an explosion causes the sub to overturn and take on water, the crew begins to understand that not all of them will escape, and a fight for survival ensues.
With a setup like that, there are a few things you need to make it work. It’s clear from the outset that not everyone on the sub will survive – in fact, the way it usually works with these stories is that by the end, you only have one or, at best, two people still alive. For the deaths of the others to mean something, the audience has to care about them as characters. In that respect, The Chamber fails miserably. No one on the sub is particularly interesting or well-written. Most of the dialogue consists of them recycling the same beats and arguments about who’s in charge over and over again. It’s only until the last stretch, when most of them are already dead, that the remaining survivors decide to give us some backstory – too little, too late.
But hey, that doesn’t necessarily mean the movie is bad, right? You could maybe get away with having uninteresting characters if they were in a compelling predicament – perhaps the way they try to survive or escape can generate the excitement and suspense that’s missing from the dialogue! Nope. The idiots get themselves into trouble by detonating an explosive way too close to the sub and spend the rest of the time bickering about what to do next. It’s a small sub, so there’s very little movement – it’s the interactions between the characters that’s supposed to drive the story, but they’re boring and one-dimensional.
The cast is comprised of Main Character 1 – Man, Main Character 2 – Woman, Side Character 1 – Ridiculous Asshole, who’s there for the sake of creating conflict and Side Character 2 – Guy’s who’s there to die first. There’s a 60% chance they have actual character names, but that’s pretty much all you’ll remember them by.
The opening of The Chamber inexplicably makes a big deal about North Korea becoming some kind of major threat within the movie’s universe, which really has nothing to do with anything. We’re never given a sense of how the events of the story may or may not affect the world at large, so for all intents and purposes, this movie could have been set anywhere with a sea or an ocean. We only ever follow the people inside the sub, so who cares what the fictional North Koreans are up to?
It’s a shame, because this is a solid setup for a claustrophobic thriller – a small group of people, trapped underwater with no apparent means of escape and no way to contact the surface. Even without the McGuffin of “highly sensitive data”, this could have easily been pretty compelling and suspenseful. Instead, it’s mostly dull, with only a few moments of unintentional hilarity breaking up the boredom, like one character kissing another for absolutely no reason after the two show no chemistry whatsoever. To be fair, that almost felt like it was meant to be humorous, but regardless of intent, it was pretty stupid.
When all is said and done, The Chamber is a decent idea that’s wasted on a lackluster and pretty forgettable movie, full of thinly written, uninteresting characters and unnecessary exposition. There’s not much of anything that’s worth recommending here – it’s not even a so-bad-it’s-good kind of movie, because it’s mostly just boring and repetitive.
The Chamber will be released in UK cinemas on the 10th March, 2017 and will be available on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download from the 20th March, 2017.