Futuristic Movie Month: "Carrier" Review

Photo Credit: Paramount Vantage

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Rating: PG-13
Length: 84 minutes
Release Date: September 4, 2009
Directed by: David Pastor, Àlex Pastor
Genre: Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

Apocalyptic movies that focus on deadly disease or viruses wiping out the human race are nothing new at the box office. Ever since zombies became a hot pop culture property again, several of these apocalyptic movies have centered on the flesh-eating monsters and how survivors struggle not to become one of them. In "Carriers," there is a virus that is slowly wiping out the human population, but it does not turn people into zombies or bloodthirsty killers like those in "28 Days Later." This is a refreshing change of pace and helps to set the film apart from others in the genre.

The film begins with a group of survivors who have managed to avoid contracting the dreaded killer virus, which resembles the flu and is contracted through blood or breathing the same air as an infected person. Naturally, all of the four survivors that the film centers on are wearing masks over their noses and mouths. The de facto leader of the bunch is the prickly Brian (Chris Pine), who lords over his younger brother Danny (Lou Taylor Pucci) and girlfriend Bobby (Piper Perabo). Also along for the ride is Kate (Emily VanCamp), a wild card who they pick up as they travel to the coast in the hope that there is abundant food from the ocean and maybe some shelter.

When their car runs out of gas, the foursome steals one from a desperate dad named Frank (Christopher Meloni), whose daughter Jodie (Kiernan Shipka) is possibly infected. After he pleads for mercy, the group finds some thick plastic sheets and seals off the back of the SUV, allowing Frank and Jodie to travel with them without the risk of infection. Like in most horror and apocalyptic movies, the plan doesn't work nearly as well as had been hoped, putting everyone in the car in peril. A few characters start to show signs of infection, putting everyone on edge and causing all kinds of chaos between the once calm group members. As the danger and emotions escalate, the audience is left to wonder whether the virus is more deadly than the uninfected, who are slowly losing their humanity in an effort to survive.

"Carriers" was originally filmed in 2007, but it was shelved by the producing studio for a few years. When Pine became a bona fide star after being cast as the new Captain Kirk in the "Star Trek" reboot, the film was resurrected from the vault and given a limited theatrical release. It's a good thing for fans of horror and post-apocalyptic films that Pine's star is rising, or else this entertaining and occasionally challenging film would never have seen the light of day. While it isn't a game changer for the genre, it asks much tougher questions than the usual zombie gore films that masquerade as apocalyptic films. There isn't a lot of exposition or even much of an explanation as to how the virus came to be. The focus stays solely on this small band of uninfected people who are letting fear get the best of them.

Most of the actors spend the majority of the film with half their faces obscured by the masks they hope to save their lives with. Actors generally rely on their entire face to emote and show the audience what their character is going through. In "Carriers," the actors must use only their eyes to relay emotion, which is a challenge. Thankfully, Pine, VanCamp, Perabo and Pucci all succeed in doing this. The masks almost become an extension of each character, becoming as indispensable as the actors themselves. Meloni's performance is the cream of the crop, showing an intensity and desperation that tugs at the heartstrings of viewers. Due to his instinct to help his daughter, he keeps his humanity much longer than other characters, making him something of a surrogate for the audience.

The film doesn't need a backstory for the characters or the disease to really understand the grave situation that humans find themselves in during the film. This is partially because the character interactions are great, and the script from brothers David and Àlex Pastor, who also co-directed the film, is on-point. The characters are written to be relatable, and there is even a smattering of humor thrown in to cut some of the tension, which reaches a crescendo toward the end. This well-paced movie is great for fans of the horror genre and the general audience, and with a brisk 84 minute running time, it is well worth a viewing.