Society eats itself in this brisk and tense tower-block thriller from first-time director Neil Mcenery-West. It’s well-worn territory in filmic and literary fields, seen recently in the aptly named Tower Block from James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson and coming soon in the highly anticipated High-Rise from Ben Wheatley.
Strong attention to detail and a disquieting score set this debut feature apart, but some of the characters’ motivations aren’t entirely convincing.
When a group of residents are sealed in their flats, they break through the adjoining walls to reach one another in a desperate attempt to plan an escape route from the people who are keeping them locked up due to an airborne virus outbreak.
An artist, a nurse and her boyfriend, two brothers and an elderly woman team up, and though at first they attempt to utilise their own special skills, their actions lead to mass chaos and violence.
Long-time resident Enid (the wonderful Sheila Reid) remarks at one point on the ideals that came with living on an estate, and how to begin with they were marked out as homes for the future, and as a way to build a thriving community. But in the modern day, none of the residents know each other, let alone interact.
However, the screenplay doesn’t pit the good old days against the present, with Enid being quite frank about how human nature and a vicious pack mentality quite regularly come hand in hand, no matter what the era.
The rise to violence is inevitable in this setup, but its path though the visceral isn’t entirely persuasive. A character named Sergei (Andrew Leung), who is prone to aggressive outbursts, proves to be one of the weaker links, with his bad behaviour escalating at an unconvincingly fast rate.
Most of the other surrounding characters, especially artist-in-residence Mark (Lee Ross) are thankfully written with stronger motivation behind their actions.
Extreme panic and a breakdown in communication breeds violence in this tightly wound though flawed exploration of civil disorder.