Set in a small submersible vehicle in the waters off the Korean Peninsula, “The Chamber” should be a tense study in claustrophobia. However, Ben Parker’s feature directorial debut never takes full advantage of its small setting, resulting in a grim thriller that isn’t as compelling as it might have been in stronger hands.
As the pilot of the Aurora, Mats (Johannes Kuhnke) knows the quirks of the small submersible well. He agrees to help a special ops team (Charlotte Salt, James McArdle and Elliot Levey) on their mission to find something on the bottom of the Yellow Sea, though he — and the audience — know little of the details. Hours into their dive, the mission turns dangerous and it becomes clear how fragile the aging craft and the human body are.
“The Chamber” is spare, primarily using a cast of four and a single location for the bulk of its tight running time. Kuhnke shows further promise after wowing audiences in “Force Majeure,” and the rest of the performances are solid in their depiction of an unraveling crew, if occasionally showing cracks in their American accents.
With its concept and an unsettling score from Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield, “The Chamber” should keep audiences engaged for an hour and a half. Unfortunately, the film never fully coalesces, with only brief moments of panic punctuating an otherwise muted movie.
Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Playing: AMC Sunset 5, West Hollywood; also on VOD