- Posted by Giaco Furino
- On August 28, 2015
- 0 Comments
It’s been a long, loud summer. There have been a few great movie over the past few months, but it’s also been a summer full of CGI explosions, bad acting, and over-wrought plots. When Z for Zachariah came up on my review schedule, I didn’t know much about it. To be honest, I saw the letter Z and thought more zombies? But Z for Zachariah A. has nothing to do with Zombies and B. Is the calm breath of air we need at the end of a big-budget summer.
Here’s the story, adapted from the posthumous novel by Robert C. O’Brien: Ann Burden (Margot Robbie) has been living alone in the valley that she grew up in ever since the world ended. Radiation, which seems to have killed most of the world, didn’t effect the little patch of land she grew up on. She’s been alone for a year since her father and brother left to find survivors. She farms, she hunts, she leads a quiet life with her dog. Then one day Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor) shows up in a huge radiation suit, and her life changes. They learn to live together, adapt to working together, and things seem to be going fine, romance builds. When a third party, Caleb (Chris Pine) shows up, the dynamic shifts.
This isn’t a movie about running from zombies, or even about people fighting and screaming at the end of the world. This is a quiet, thoughtful love-triangle story. The movie stars the three actors listed above… and that’s it! I’m reminded of a movie I reviewed a few weeks back, Air, but where that film relied on a clever plot, tense race-against-time set pieces, and great production design, Z for Zachariah relies solely on the strength of its three cast members.
You don’t land actors of this caliber and not put them to work, right? Director Craig Zobel (Great World of Sound) has pulled from these actors some of the most nuanced performances ever seen in genre film. Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad) plays a tightrope walk between naivety and stupidity. She pushes the character to a point that most actors wouldn’t be comfortable pushing toward. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Doctor Strange) plays the sympathetic center, but the film challenges us every time we want to root for him. And finally, Chris Pine (Star Trek) comes around fifty minutes into the movie and schemes in ways so subtle I’m still wondering if he was even scheming. Not since Moon have I felt that a small cast benefitted a genre picture to this extent. There are no big chase scenes, no real tense moments, this is a hardcore character study.
I think a lot of people will read “end of the world” and go into this movie expecting something very different from what they’re going to get. Some will even find this movie boring. While I could understand how fans of apocalypse movies may feel that way, I think it’s important for the evolution of the genre that we get slow, contemplative burners like this. Not every movie in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror genre has to be pulse-pounding.
Maybe it’s a reflection of the plot that there’s not much else to say about this movie. Z for Zachariah is the palette cleanser I needed after last week’s Hitman: Agent 47 (which I liked for very different reasons than the reasons I like this movie). If you like slower, more artful films (the film is shot beautifully, it looks like a painting at times) see this movie. If you prefer screaming and running and crying and shooting, well, take a chill pill and still go see this movie.