One shouldn’t be too surprised that ALEX & DAVID PASTOR’s melancholy road movie CARRIERS didn’t exactly become a theatrical sensation during its very limited run a few months back. Unlike star CHRIS PINE’s other summer vehicle STAR TREK, the apocalyptic CARRIERS hardly offers itself to be promoted on collect them all Burger King glasses. Although it does take a moment to partake in the mandatory end of the world “hooray, we can do anything we want!” frolic scene (our survivors have fun smashing windows by hitting golf balls into them) CARRIERS is more interested in the down side of the end of the world. It’s a reverse ZOMBIELAND with zero zombies.
Speaking of Burger King I’m the type who will throw my Whopper in the trash if someone sneezes within a 50 foot radius of it so the basic fear of contagion that drives CARRIERS is not wasted on me. There are some tense squirmy moments for all you fellow hypochondriacs out there, but delivering jolty shocks of paranoia is a side dish to the real meat and potatoes served. Don’t hold your breath for the usual end of the world fetishized destruction either, the brothers PASTOR persuasively relay the idea that human relationships are far more fascinating than explosions. This is a movie that has some serious respect for its characters.
PIPER PERABO is a long way from COYOTE UGLY, her bond with PINE, rife with knowing jabs of mutual understanding convinces the viewer of its authenticity early on. They are two of four survivors we get to know intimately. (CHRISTOPHER MELONI tags along for a while too, as a heartbreakingly distraught father.) These are real people who sometimes come off as far less than heroic, but the situations that they find themselves in will have you wondering if doing the “right” thing is always the smart thing. This is a world where human compassion may mean death and where betraying those close to you may be your only means of survival. Ultimately though, comprehension of the high stakes involved does little to weaken the wretchedness of watching once allies abandoned when the virus tags them “it.”
With its PG-13 rating and reluctance to beat its chest, CARRIERS could be mistaken for a timid film but truly, it’s atypically aggressive when it comes to avoiding moral shortcuts. Rather than paint a false universe where love is the be-all cure-all, it repeatedly confronts the moment in time where one must turn their back on others in order to move forward. Who needs fireworks, Burger King glasses or even a successful theatrical run? CARRIERS proves that it’s sometimes more absorbing to watch the world end with a whimper rather than a bang.