Last watched March 2016


A deadly virus breaks out in Antwerp, Belgium. A refugee from Afghan is blamed publicly as the city puts in place a cordon to control the outbreak. Suddenly thousands of people find themselves trapped, sharing space with a virus that is killing people quickly and gruesomely.


The premise of this show is really startlingly good. It’s accurate and brings west the horrors of the cordon sanitaire’s happening in places like Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia due to Ebola outbreaks. It is an apt conjuring of plague outbreaks, too, playing off old historical anxiety around illness.

The premise is so good that the US, as they are wont to, has remade it. Containment is almost exactly the same plot structure but lacks the enjoyable aspects of characterisation. They’ve increased the level of people of colour but also homogenised their characters to make them more All American and apple pie. For instance, in Cordon there is a young girl who is pregnant who plans to flee her middle class lifestyle and live with the father, in poverty, in Spain. She is super naive about how much of a culture shock that would be and it is a really perfect depiction.

In Containment the girl’s plot line transforms into a Romeo and Juliet scenario where the father is not only present, but fighting to get inside the cordon sanitaire to be with her. It’s just very Hollywood and not believable in any way.

My preference, therefore, is Cordon, but I can totally understand why folk would support Containment over it (Cordon is very white).

Like with a lot of zombie movies, the tension is largely around lawlessness, dissolution of humanity, scarcity of resources and panic. Contrary to a lot of zombie movies, there is the added element of the impact that technology has when communicating with the outside world. There is also a very clear end point and less of a sense of hopelessness in a macro scale.

Pros: excellent characterisation, excellent writing, excellent setting, direction and cinematography. Good critique of government and their manipulation of the media.
Cons: needs more people of colour, classist depiction of ‘bad guy’ gangsters.
Genre: drama

Light/heavy rating: 6
Approach carefully if: you have difficulty with random acts of violence, elder violence, death by infectious disease

Can be found: Netflix

If you liked, I recommend: Walking Dead? I mean, any zombie film, certainly.


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