Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Carriers" (2009)

Starring Chris Pine, Lou Taylor Pucci and Piper Perabo
Written and directed by Alex and David Pastor

After a vicious illness spreads across the globe, killing nearly everyone, civilization has fallen apart.  A small group of survivors, brothers Danny (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Brian (Chris Pine) along with Bobby (Piper Perabo) and Kate (Emily VanCamp) travel the countryside.  They're headed for an old beach resort that holds happy memories for Danny and Brian, having vacationed there as a family in the years before the virus.

To stay alive and uninfected, the group follows a strict set of rules.  They avoid contact with all others, who may be infected.  They wear surgical masks and gloves whenever possible, and everything suspect in the slightest is scrubbed with bleach.  They're paranoid to the max, stressed out and unhappy.  Brian is the apparent leader of the group, basically through being more impulsive and decisive than the others.  

"Carriers" is set up in three distinct sections.  In the first, the group comes across a father and his daughter who have run out of gas.  Frank Holloway (Christopher Meloni) seems uninfected, but his daughter Jodie (Kiernan Shipka) is clearly suffering from the virus.  They beg the group to lend them some gas so they can make it to a supposed hospital where there may be a cure.  Against their better judgment, the group travels together to a nearby converted elementary school where they find a lone doctor who is about to poison a number of child patients to spare them the pain of dying of the virus.  The group uses the distraction to abandon Frank and Jodie there and move on.

In the second section, the group finds a seemingly abandoned hotel and golf resort.  They let their guard down a bit and have some fun around the resort.  Unfortunately, it's not as abandoned as they thought and a group of armed survivalists return home and find the group running amok in their barricaded home.  After a tense confrontation, the group manages to escape.  But not without consequences: Bobby reveals that she was infected by Jodie, and Danny and Brian are forced to leave her behind.

The final section of the film deals with increasing tension between Danny and Brian after abandoning Bobby.  Harsh revelations for the two come about, driving a wedge between them.  Their paranoia grows, threatening to break the rest of the group apart.  Brian's impulsiveness begins to turn reckless, and he's injured.  Are they going to make it to the beach resort and find some measure of peace in a ruined world?

"Carriers" is fairly interesting.  Though there are some creepy bits and jump scares, the horror mostly comes from the desolate atmosphere.  The skies are blue and sunny, and yet there's a feeling that this world has lost something integral.  It feels dead.  The whole tone of the film is like this.  It's the film's greatest strength aside from its cast.

The story itself is somewhat small, lacking in scope.  The episodic nature of the plot keeps things fairly limited, but also has some variety to it.  "Carriers" doesn't get stale, but it also doesn't really strive too far, either.  The characters aren't particularly well drawn, as only Chris Pine manages to bring anything memorable to the party.  It's not that the others are badly written or poorly acted, they're just not anything special.  Pine brings that same cocky rebelliousness that made his Captain Kirk so much fun.  But unlike that iconic character, Brian cracks under the pressure of staying alive (and keeping his brother alive) after the end of the world. 

"Carriers" is decently written, but the direction and tone of the piece, along with Pine's performance, are really the highlights.  If you're looking for a small, interesting drama about the end of the world, you can do far worse than "Carriers."  I enjoyed it, though I'm not likely to revisit it.