Review Date: December 13, 2009
Released by: Paramount Vantage
Release date: 12/8/2009
MSRP: Rental Only
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
It seems like every few years apocalyptic fantasies gain popularity. We saw a rash of them in the 70ís, and then again near the turn of the century/millennium. Now with 2012 supposedly being the end of all things, weíre starting to see resurgence. The aptly titled 2012
imagined a planetary alignment causing the sun to doÖsomethingÖwhich makesÖthe Earth goÖ.I dunno. Whatever it is, itís not good. Thereís also been a spike in the popularity of zombie films, such as this yearís comedic Zombieland
. The adaptation of the comic book masterpiece Watchmen imagines an alternate 1985 where the world is in chaos and disorder with the threat of nuclear war looming on the near horizon. And of course, the success of the Twilight
novels and books are surely the tenth and eleventh horsemen of the coming apocalypse.
With the H1N1 pandemic and 2012 fever starting to ramp up, there couldnít have been a more canny time to release Carriers
. The timing gives it a sort of ripped-from-the-headlines urgency that it wouldnít otherwise have had. Too bad it never got a proper theatrical release; I donít think a Paranormal Activity
size reception was ever in the cards but the right marketing campaign could have curtailed it into a modest sleeper hit. Carriers
is a movie that will definitely invite re-watching in a few years; right now it may just be too of its time for a totally impartial evaluation to be made.
In an indeterminate time in the near future, a viral pandemic has ravaged America. Those who survive the initial outbreak have either barricaded themselves in homemade viral fallout shelters or taken to the highways in search of safe haven. It is in this latter group that we find the protagonists, brothers Brian (Chris Pine
) and Danny (Lou Taylor Pucci
), Brianís girlfriend Bobby (Piper Perabo
) and Dannyís platonic friend Kate (Emily VanCamp
). The group is trying to make their way across country to an abandoned hotel at Turtle Beach, where the boys spent their childhood summers. Their trip is interrupted when they come across Frank (Christopher Meloni
) and his daughter Jodie (Kiernan Shipka
) who is sick with the virus. During a confrontation the brotherís car is damaged and they find themselves commandeering Frankís SUV and agreeing to transport him and his daughter to the next city, where there is supposedly a research center that has a tentative cure in development. However, when they arrive there they find not a research center but a make shift death camp where the head researcher is euthanising sick children. To make matters worse Bobby becomes exposed to the virus when Jodie has a seizure. The group leaves Jodie and Frank behind when they decide to move on and, not surprisingly, Bobby doesnít volunteer the fact that sheís been exposed to the virus. Instead she keeps quiet and tries to rationalize potentially exposing the rest of the group to the virus.
Their next stop isnít any better. A well-stocked and seemingly empty country club hotel turns out to be the base of operations for a group of officer-workers-turned-marauders. When the marauders return, they forcefully turn the brothers away and plan to keep the girls. Their minds are easily changed when a strip search yields the telltale bruises that accompany the infection, on Bobby. The group, on the road again, faces another moral decision. Brian, the de facto leader, proves his ruthlessness (or fitness to survive, depending on your perspective) and abandons Bobby in the middle nowhere with minimal supplies. Although Danny objects to Brianís ruthlessness, a shattering revelation causes Danny to rethink his worldview. When an injured Brian begins to show signs of infection Danny is forced to make an unthinkable decision: stick to his moral code, or abandon Brian and continue heading to sanctuary?
is billed as a thriller but itís really not; itís a character drama. The characters are sketchily and broadly drawn. Itís pretty common short hand to use archetypes in genre films but the drawback with that, which is very apparent here, is that any emotional scenes will lack gravitas since weíre at least unconsciously aware that weíre watching stock characters that weíve seen before. Considering that Carriers
is definitely more character oriented than your average genre film this is a pretty serious deficiency. That said the actors do a good job with the material they have. Piper Perabo has such an appealing screen presence that she feels a bit miscast as terminally bitchy Bobby. Emily Van Camp is a complete non-entity in the nothing role of Kate. At one point Brain asks ďWhy is she even here?Ē which completely echoed my sentiments. Chris Pine fills the role that, had Carriers
been made about 5 years ago, would otherwise have gone to Paul Walker. Heís good, but itís not a terribly demanding part. He does have a few emotionally intense scenes, which he pulls off. The real standout performer is Lou Taylor Pucci as the morally conflicted Danny. At first he comes off as hopelessly fey, but thereís a nice narrative switcheroo late in the film where he emerges as the main character. He spends the film struggling to reconcile his traditional morality that made him more suited to live in the old world with the ruthless amorality of his brother that he will need to adopt if heís to have any hope of long-term survival. Thatís not a terribly original idea but Chris Pine and Lou Taylor Pucci do a good job of creating a credible brother dynamic that sells the story arc. With all central relationship of the movie dealing with themes of brotherhood, itís no surprise to find that Carriers
was written and directed by brothers (ņlex and David Pastor).
The movie has to strike a careful balance and itís not always successful in doing so. On one hand, the characters have to be smart to have survived so long, but they also have to make stupid mistakes over the course of the story to generate excitement and conflict. Itís unfortunate that the filmmakers fall back on the old clichť of a person whose been infected but fails to tell anyone until itís too late. This plot device may have been successful at one point in time but now itís just tired and generates more groans than suspense.
has some fairly standard set ups. A lot of them never pay off but those that do often times pay off in fascinating ways. Carriers
has no lack of ambition. Interesting moral quandaries abound and although theyíre not often explored as much as they could be and opportunities to tie different plot threads together are often passed over. Actually, this is the type of story that would lend itself to print more than film since itís concerned more about the inner conflicts of its characters. Itís not a bad movie but Carriers
could potentially have been a fantastic novel.
The cinematography in Carriers
is nice to look at, but some of the shots are self consciously arty. The pacing is far too deliberate, the movies seems desperate for you to accept it as an art film. Itís no accident that Paramount Vantage, the art house wing of the venerable studio, is releasing Carriers
as its pretensions to seriousness weigh the film down. The visuals are nice; the core of the film is superficial.
With its opening narration about the ďrulesĒ one needs to follow in the newly apocalyptic setting, Carriers
generates unintentional laughs. If youíve seen Zombieland
you canít help but compare them. Iím sure both films were in the pipe around the same time so the similarities are coincidental but what prescience Carriers
gains in itís proximity to the H1N1 scare it loses somewhat in its similarities to Zombieland
. There are also callbacks, whether intentional or not, to sources such as Stephen Kingís The Stand
and 28 Days Later
Some may be scared away by the PG-13 rating but they neednít be. Whatever faults this film has, itís not due to the rating. This is a film that relies more on atmosphere and character than violence and gore for its impact. It even manages to generate a few genuinely disturbing moments without resorting to dowsing the set with an abattoir slop bucket. Fans of apocalyptic fiction are sure to find something of value in this offbeat film and to those people I can give it a qualified recommendation. At the very least, with a Spartan 84 minute running time, Carriers
never outstays its welcome.
is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35 and is anamorphically encoded. Having never seen a print of this film I have no real point of comparison, and given the high degree of stylization the visuals were subject to makes it doubly hard to evaluate the video quality. In general Iíd have to say itís quite fine. This is a pretty barebones disc so the audio and video have much more room to breathe. The MPEG-2 transfer runs consistently around the 4 or 5 Mbps range, occasionally spiking around 3 Mbps on the low-end and as high as 7 Mbps on the high end. Whites tend to be blown out and blacks crushed, but thatís more likely a stylistic choice. Flesh tones, however, are wildly inconsistent. Sometimes theyíre okay, but often they run to pink and orange. Fine object detail is generally good, though there are a few instances where itís lost in a muddle. Check out the flower patch in the foreground 59 minutes in; thereís little to distinguish one flower from another and it just looks like a blotchy patch of yellow. Thatís a pretty low moment in terms of video quality, but itís also a very rare one. This is otherwise a perfectly acceptable transfer.
No complaints here. Iíve found that a lot of direct-to-video films suffer from lackluster audio presentation. Thankfully that isnít the case with Carriers
. The English Dolby 5.1 track is a standout. Dialogue is crystal clear, the surrounds are filled with ambient sounds and there are some great panning effects as cars zoom across the screen. Only very occasionally, when there are characters wearing gas masks, is some of the dialogue tough to discern. It is however, only background chatter and does not impede the story in any way. All in all, a top notch job by the sound designers.
The disc I received for review is a rental copy and no extras are included.
Despite the fact that Carriers
is being misleadingly billed as a thriller, those expecting a slam-bang end of the world thriller will be sorely disappointed. Carriers
is however, an interesting movie thatís worth a watch. Paramount is smartly releasing Carriers
for rental; Iíd be leery of suggesting anyone spend $20 or $30 to add Carriers
to their permanent collection, but for an eveningís entertainment, it fits the bill nicely.
Movie - B-
Image Quality - B
Sound - B+
Supplements - F
- Running time - 1 hour 24 minutes
- Rated PG-13, 14A
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- English subtitles
- French subtitles
- Spanish subtitles