White Chamber

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

White Chamber
"Just as you begin to worry that the conceit might not last the running time, things move in a different and unexpected direction."

Director Paul Raschid understands the value of a balancing the ingredients of a film. If you don't have a huge budget and a CGI squad, then make sure you offset those limitations with smart ideas and a strong cast.

The cast box is most certainly ticked thanks to full-blooded performances from Shauna Macdonald and Oded Fehr, who has a twinkle of George Clooney about him, with solid support from Amrita Acharia, Sharon Maughan, Nicolas Farrell and Candis Nergaard.

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Taking place in the near future, the film is set up via voice-over outlining a UK that is living under Marshall law and a rebellion in full force.

Macdonald's character wakes to find herself in the white chamber of the title, a small steel-floored room with white walls and no apparent exit, her vulnerability accentuated by the fact she is barefoot. When a distorted voice offers her food, there's no wonder she's suspicious and, sure enough, soon her interrogator wants answers. She insists she's just a delivery girl for the facility, even as her torture begins.

It would be a shame to reveal much more of what the White Chamber has in store, but though Raschid may have limited resources, he doesn't hold back. The first part of the film unfolds with considerable pace and, just as you begin to worry that the conceit might not last the running time, things move in a different and unexpected direction, flashing back in time to consider the work the facility was doing.

This expansion of the plot allows Raschid to move beyond the psychological head-to-head between captor (Fehr) and captive (Macdonald) to consider broader issues about what leads normal people to torture others, recalling films like Das Experiment - although he's more interested in genre thrills than political posturing.

After the quick unfolding of the film's opening act, the pace falters a little when the film reaches its exposition element. Although the cast deliver emotionally, the fact that what is driving them is mostly laid out by the script rather than by seeing what has happened - a no doubt necessary limitation again due to the budget - makes it harder to completely invest in the characters. That said, Macdonald shows a similar commitment to her role, in all its edgy ambivalence, to that displayed by Claire Foy in recent genre piece Unsane. There is also strong make-up work from Hannah Wing and visual effects from Taos Djouhri and Mo Mousavi, which ensure that when violence comes it arrives with a bone-crunching, brutal realism. They may not have had money to burn, but Raschid and his crew prove they can think outside the box.

Reviewed on: 23 Jun 2018
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White Chamber packshot
A woman wakes in an interrogation room in a future Britain.


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