Plot: What’s it about?
I don’t know why certain things in my life stand out to me. Little things here and there and most of them insignificant. But, for some reason, I’ve always had this image in my mind from 7th grade (that’s circa 1985 for those who are interested) of students carrying around books they were reading in class. I’m not talking textbooks, I’m referring to actual books that were read in class. As you might have guessed, the book in question was Z for Zachariah. On the cover, in the reflection of a mirrored eyepiece, was that of a nuclear cloud. I have no idea why this image has resonated with me for so long, but when I’d heard that this was finally being made into a film, that’s the first thing I thought of. And, ironically, I’d never actually read the book, so I was anxious to see what the movie had in store. Well, let’s find out.
The world has come to an end via nuclear destruction. We don’t know why or when exactly, but we meet Ann (Margot Robbie) as she’s sifting through what’s left of the local library. Dressed in a radiation suit (of sorts), she heads back to her home to scrub what radioactive material has clung to her body. Her days are like this and we’ve no idea how long she’s had this routine. Things change when she witnesses a stranger pulling a cart exit his radiation suit. He cheers in joy and bathes in the nearby stream. Unbeknownst to him, it’s a radioactive bath and Ann manages to save him and nurse him back to health. As it turns out his name is John Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a scientist who managed to survive the holocaust by virtue of being underground. As the two get to know one another, they learn from one another. To throw a wrench in the works another stranger, Caleb (Chris Pine) shows up. If two’s a company, then three’s a crowd. Then again, they might be the only living beings on the planet. What to do?
Though I never read the book, I did a bit of research on the film and the novel prior to watching it. I don’t think I’m giving anything away when I say that the character of Caleb was added specifically for the film. The novel only featured Loomis and Ann. Still, the “love triangle” did make for a more interesting angle than two people on screen for 100 minutes. Then again, I was captivated by Robert Redford’s performance in All is Lost. The post-apocalyptic films are all the rage right now. Be it Mad Max, The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner. I suppose there’s something about being a sole survivor that’s captivating. Lastly, if there was ever any doubt that Margot Robbie had talent as an actress – let me put those to rest. She’s more than just a pretty face – she’s got talent. She holds her own with Academy Award nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine. While there might not be a plethora of action, Z for Zachariah is certainly not a waste of time.
Video: How’s it look?
This might be one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen. I’m sure the assumption would be that for a movie based on the nuclear fallout, we’d be treated to vast wastelands and brown soil. Nope. The 2.40:1 AVC HD image features some amazing-looking sweeping visuals that showcase the beauty of the land. That’s the premise of the film, actually, is that this one valley has somehow been spared the fallout of the nuclear war and thus allows Ann to survive. The film was shot in New Zealand and parts of West Virginia and let me tell you that this must be heaven on Earth. The intricicies in some of the shots help set the mood and show what it is they’re actually living for. Flesh tones vary a bit with the perpetual dirt on Ann and Caleb’s face. Detail, as expected, is top notch. On par with Days of Heaven, this is a beautiful-looking film.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The included DTS HD Master Audio track isn’t anything to write home about. As I mentioned, the cast of the film is limited to three people. The highlight of the audio is that of a tractor starting or maybe the barking of Ann’s dog. Vocals are at the forefront of the mix, though they come through crisp clear and clean. Margot Robbie, an Australian actress, does her best West Virginian accent as does Chris Pine. The surrounds add a bit ambient depth, but the focus is on the dialogue – as it should be. It’s a nice mix, but not anything that will resonate with the viewer.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- The Making of Z for Zachariah – This is pretty much your standard “Making of…” featurette, though I will say that the interviews are done in an odd fashion. Instead of them being “made up” on the set, sitting in the chairs or a pre-decorated room, it’s like they were filmed at home. The extreme close-ups on the actors as they describe their respective roles, is a change of pace for sure. Granted, the same things are said, but kudos for giving this reviewer something he didn’t expect!
- Deleted Scenes
- Extended Interviews – The main cast and crew members are profiled with a bit greater detail. These consist of actors Chiwetel Ejiofor and Margot Robbie, Director Craig Zobel and Screenwriter Nissan Modi.
The Bottom Line
There’s not a lot of action in the film. Those expecting a Hunger Games or Maze Runner type of film in regards to action will probably be let down. This is character study, first and foremost, with the backdrop being a post-actpocalpytic world. The visuals are beautiful and with strong performances from the cast it’s a movie worth seeing, for sure. The supplements are a bit lacking, but might be enough to warrant a purchase if you’re so inclined.