REVIEW: Z for Zachariah

30 08 2015

Z for ZachariahIn Craig Zobel’s last film, 2012’s “Compliance,” the director showed the collapse of civilization and social order in a situation where tremendous external stress agents forced people into making unthinkable choices.  He returns to ponder similar questions of the base impulses guiding our actions in “Z for Zachariah,” albeit in an entirely different setting: a post-apocalyptic world.

Margot Robbie’s country girl Ann Burden thinks she may the last survivor of an unspecified nuclear disaster, somewhat because of her farm’s odd location in a valley but also due to an act of providence from God.  The serene, bucolic landscape soon welcomes a visitor in the form of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Loomis, a civil engineer who stumbles upon Ann’s place.  The two work together, albeit uneasily, to restore the harvest and even potentially regain electricity.

These scenes play out at a patient pace, at once stage-like in their delicacy but cinematic in their intimacy.  Zobel and editor Jane Rizzo find a way to stretch Nissar Modi’s script, which probably runs a roughly normal length (if not a little bit shorter), into something that feels practically like a miniseries.  The adult cousin of “The Last Man on Earth,” if you will.  At times, “Z for Zachariah” droops under the weight of its measured tone, but Zobel does impressively calibrate the picture to enervate without aggravating.

The film does get a shot of energy when Chris Pine’s Caleb emerges.  With his messy hair and scruffy beard, this marks the most unkempt character the normally Prince Charming-esque actor has played in a straight drama.  A bit of a love triangle emerges, sure, but not in a stereotypical kind of way.  (Since Caleb is a fellow believer, he has the clear upper hand.)  The desolately populated space around them reverts the dynamic between Caleb and Loomis to resemble that between Cain and Abel sparring for dominance.  These biblical undertones, as well as one of the most mature and nuanced portrayals of faith in recent memory, lend “Z for Zachariah” a thematic heft that helps it earn much of its restrained pacing.  B2halfstars

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2 responses

30 08 2015
Ricardo

meh
I was on board the whole Bible thing until the two believers have sex, while the heathen actually chooses to wait.
started good but ended up reminding me of Maggie, with Abigail Breslin.

30 08 2015
Marshall

Hey, gotta repopulate sometime!

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