Safe, Enjoyable, “Pandemic Genre”, Fare, 11 December 2009
Author: gary-444 from United Kingdom
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An assured, if somewhat safe, first feature from Director Alex Pastor. It would be very easy to criticise this film for what it is not, at the expense of recognising it’s many strengths. This is no classic, nor is it a particularly auspicious debut. But it is a well constructed, engaging, entertaining story which succeeds by not trying to overstretch itself. It features Chris Pine, as Brian, shot before he leaped to prominence as James Kirk in the Star Trek prequel. However it’s best line is serendipity at its best, as a female yells “Tiger Woods can kiss my ass”, oblivious to the contemporaneous resonance this line now has ( you mean he hasn’t?!).
At 84 minutes there’ s little flab, nor sub plot, yet there is often a languid feel about proceedings, a neat achievement in itself. This is a Road Movie featuring two brothers, and two girls, set in a post pandemic Western United States. We join them mid journey as they head to the Coast to a childhood retreat that they hope to hole up in until things settle down. The picturesque Wild West provides a glorious back drop of mountains, tumbleweed, and single track road disappearing into the horizon. Shrewdly, there is no grand conceit, no master plan that the story has to live up to. It is episodic, what you see is what there is, no more, no less, in the tradition of Cowboy Westerns.
A number of the scenes borrow heavily from Cinematic history. The opening shot of a car blazing across a desert road reminds us of both “Mad Max” and “Breakdown”, the deserted yet possibly infected townscapes echo “The Omega Man”, Romero’s “Zombies” series and “28 days Later”, whilst a man hunt in a commercial kitchen is almost a frame for frame steal from Jurrasic Park 3.Not that it matters. The scenes are well executed, and well chosen, and are reassuring set pieces for the audience, and Director alike.
Although Road Movie, Horror staples are included. As soon as a child appears, you know no good will happen. Are “dead” corpses really dead? And yes there is a gratuitous young female underwear shot. But to his credit, Pastor largely avoids cliché, and once you come to terms with the fact that this story is told in episodes, what is done is done, it is possible to enjoy it for what it is. There is no big surprise, catch, or revelation. Which is not to say that the individual scenes are without drama, and tension, they are. But with modern cinema so obsessed with tricks and “reveals” it takes some adjusting to. Most close with a implied rhetorical, moral question, “What would you do?”
So the only real criticism I offer is the films strength. It does not try to be too ambitious, it works within its limitations and does not disappoint because it is straight.