Director: Alex & David Pastor
Lou Taylor Pucci, Chris Pine, Piper Perabo

If you have read a significant number of the reviews at The Unknown Movies, you have probably spotted a few patterns and regular occurrences in the reviews. One regular thing that I do is complain that the government of Canada does not fund enough real movies. Another thing I like to do every so often is to review a serious-minded movie, which I do as a challenge for myself and to add variety to the web site. But something I think I do even more than those two examples is to add a sense of humor to my reviews, to write something that will make the reader laugh. Part of that is because I want my reviews to be fun to read, but also because in this cynical world of ours, we desperately need some humor. Almost certainly like you, I don't like to see or even think about bad stuff that happens, or could happen, in the world. But with this movie I am reviewing - Carriers - I will have to address the subject of a gloomy aspect that involves the characters of the movie. And that subject is the end of the world as we know it. It's a subject matter that we encounter many times in our lives, whether it is something Nostrodamus said, or something that is claimed in various religious texts and cults. Weird Al Yankovic once said that right now we are closer to the day that the world will end than mankind has ever been before. Although that statement was certainly said in a kind of jest, the words Al said are all the same indeed true. Even though I prefer to think of stuff that makes me happy, I must admit that there have been a lot of times when I thought about how the world as I know it might end.

If you can think of a certain way that civilization might end, I have almost certainly thought of that certain scenario, as well as thinking about how I would handle the situation if I were stuck in it. Probably the worst end-of-the-world scenario I have thought about is a nuclear war. I've said it in the past, but in case you didn't read it or forgot about it, I said that I hope I would be one of the people who are instantly annihilated by a nuclear blast instead of being one of the survivors in a radioactive and dying land. Another apocalyptic vision that's gone through my head is the rise of flesh-eating zombies like in the Living Dead movies by George Romero. Maybe I would be able to outrun or beat the brains out of zombies at first, but eventually I too would be infected by being hit by infected blood of the zombies I kill, which oddly never seems to happen to people spattered by the zombies they kill in Romero's films. A more plausible apocalyptic infection scenario that could happen, however, is a contagious virus that simply kills people. While there has never been a virus that's completely wiped out humanity, deadly plagues like The Black Death and the influenza pandemic of 1918 seem to suggest that an even deadlier virus could happen. I've often wondered about what I would do if there was a virus that killed off practically everyone around me. After thinking about it, I've determined that I would be in a pretty dangerous situation. With no more law and order, it would be very difficult to trust any survivors that I might bump into along the way. And I would be pretty stuck, because I live on an island and I have no idea how I would make the long journey to the mainland if I wanted to, because I have no idea how to pilot a boat, whether it's motor or wind driven.

I have to admit that the idea of law and order breaking down - whether it be from a virus or through other circumstances - has troubled me so much that I have seriously thought of getting a gun right at this moment, so I could be prepared and defend myself should society crumble around me. Though I have no idea where I could buy a gun in my city, nor what paperwork I would have to Carriersslog through in order to be licensed for a firearm. Until I determine what I should do, I am preparing myself in other ways - namely by watching movies concerning the end of civilization. These movies often are very informative as to what could happen and what to do about it. That's why I decided to take another look at Carriers. I had seen it before, but due to my watching hundreds of movies a year, I have forgotten just about everything about it, except that I liked it the first time. As you've guessed, the events of Carriers surround a very infectious disease that has struck mankind. When the movie starts, it's at a point of time when a mysterious disease has already struck and has killed off billions of people worldwide, leaving just a few survivors. We are quickly introduced to four survivors of the epidemic. There are the Green brothers, Danny (Pucci, Evil Dead) and Brian (Pine, Star Trek), and the women in their lives, Kate (Emily VanCamp, Brothers And Sisters) and Bobby (Perabo, Looper). Driving inside a van stocked up with supplies, the four survivors are headed cross country to a remote beach location that the Green brothers have fond memories of, having previously stayed there in their younger and carefree days. They have managed to stay free of infection due to being extremely defensive, assuming that everyone they encounter is infected and staying far away from them, even if the individuals they encounter look healthy and are desperate for help. So when they stumble upon Frank (Christopher Meloni, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) on the highway, and discover that he has an infected daughter (played by Kiernan Shipka) in his out-of-gas car, they immediately drive away. But unseen circumstances not only quickly force the four young people back, but to take Frank and his daughter with them. The four make precautions so they won't be infected by Frank and his daughter... but are their precautions foolproof? Not only that, are there any further dangers ahead for the four travelers even if they manage to deliver Frank and his daughter to aid?

As I've mentioned in earlier reviews, I have a kind of soft spot for movies that concern the end of civilization as we know it. When I watch these movies, I can't help but put myself in the same situation as the characters and wonder what I would do if I were in their place. But while I have that soft spot, at the same time I ask that the apocalyptic world be one that is plausible. Are the surroundings and the characters believable? I'll start with the surroundings of Carriers. As the movie's directors (as well as the screenwriters), the Pastor brothers manage to make a convincing world on what couldn't have been a large budget. The limited funds does mean that we don't get very many shots (especially wide shots) of deserted and litter-filled city streets; most of the movie is either shot indoors or in the middle of semi-desert locations of the American southwest. But what we see of these locations is directed effectively. There is a real feeling of isolation, as well as no feeling of any kind of help nearby, in the desert locations. The interiors feel abandoned and with pretty much nothing of anything useful in them. The Pastor brothers also manage to explain this post-apocalypse world without having to spoon-feed explanations to the audience. There is no beginning narration or any other crutch - the movie starts right with the four main characters driving down the deserted highway to their destination. Though the few first seconds may be a bit puzzling for any audience members who have not read up on the movie before sitting down to watch it, they will not be confused for long. The next few minutes, as the four encounter Frank and his daughter, manage to explain the desperate situation through the characters' words and actions. It doesn't take very long to bring the audience up to speed, and once we learn what is going on and what must be done, every subsequent event of the movie is believable.

Another key way that the world of Carriers is sold to the audience is with the characters. For the most part, these characters tend to be somewhat more intelligent that what you often get in post-apocalypse worlds. In the opening of the movie, we quickly learn that the four travelers are taking every precaution they can, carrying rubber gloves, face masks, and bleach. When they initially speed away from the pleading Frank, you can understand their action. But that doesn't mean that the four are without heart. When they soon need Frank's SUV, they honor their offer to take him to the nearest town where he can find help for his infected daughter - though understandably they seal him in the back of the SUV. Later, when Bobby is alone with Frank's daughter, she shows compassion to the little girl despite risking infection. Clearly, these people are human. They are also human when later in the movie, when things start turning darker, their actions turn darker as well. People will often do dark things in order to survive, and I could believe these dark actions. Special mention has to go to the cast for being able to show both the good side and bad side of humanity. The level of acting in the movie by everyone is very well done. In fact, the acting is even better when you think about it because the actors didn't exactly have their roles as completely written as I would have liked. You don't get to learn that much about the characters' backgrounds as you might think, leading to some head-scratching moments. For example, it is eventually revealed that while Brian and Bobby are boyfriend and girlfriend, Danny and Kate aren't. So how and why did Kate manage to hook up with the other three characters? The movie never explains this glaring question. And while Danny starts showing some romantic attraction to Kate as the movie progresses, this growing relationship at the end of the movie is left unfinished.

Some readers may be wondering what the movie delivers in both the action and the blood-and-guts departments. Very little, I must report; there is almost nothing that could be considered an action scene, and while there are some discolored corpses on display here and there, there is very little blood to be found. Actually, that decision by the Pastor brothers to keep the movie at a PG-13 level didn't bother me at all. They compensate for the lack of B movie elements by focusing on different ways to keep the audience alert. There are a number of sequences of genuine suspense, from when the travelers meet the lone and half-crazy surviving doctor at a CDC treatment center, to when the travelers later think they have found a refuge at a posh resort but soon discover other people thought the same idea first. Of course, there is the always big potential problem of any of the four travelers getting infected, which alone leads to some intense moments, and even more when the disease eventually hits home, as you no doubt earlier guessed that happens. There are other good things to say about Carriers, such as the low key but appropriate and fitting musical score by Peter Nashel, as well as the gloomy but also appropriate and fitting cinematography by Benoît Debie. But the main reason why the movie worked for me was the depiction of believable characters doing believable things in a believable situation. Watching the movie, I was sold with just about every moment, and I couldn't help but wonder if I would do better than these characters in the same situation. As you can see, Carriers is not a movie for those looking for post-apocalypse action or other kinds of B movie exploitation. But if you, like me, have a secret fear of your comfortable world turning into an apocalypse and are looking for a realistic cinematic depiction of such a thing that will teach as well as entertain, the movie for the most part will manage to work for you.

(Posted April 4, 2016)

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See also: America 3000, Idaho Transfer, Panic In Year Zero!