Z for Zachariah Review – End of World Drama Held Together by Three

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Z for Zachariah, from Lionsgate, presents an apocalyptic drama that pits good against evil as the final three people on earth come together employing Darwinism, faith and science, to rebuild lives that were stolen by nuclear accident.

Directed by Craig Zobel, Z for Zachariah stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chris Pine and Margot Robbie, and was written for the screen by Nissar Modi based on the novel of the same name by Robert C. O’Brien.

Z for Zachariah opens with an unknown person, wearing a makeshift haze mat suit, pushing a wheel barrow through a clearly deserted, damaged town. Stopping at the Library, the person uses a lock cutter to open what once was the town library and begins to gather dusty books.

At a point between the town and the valley, the person peels away the suit and apparently the only living person alive after what has not yet been articulated and is clear some sort of large scale nuclear disaster has happened, is the local preacher’s daughter, Ann, played by Margot Robbie.

At one time Ann would have been considered sweet, well read, with wherewithal, taught without knowing she was able to survive the harshness of life without the necessities. And she had faith. For some reason this valley, with lush beauty and tranquility escaped the catastrophe that blanketed the world and certainly her horizon.

It was morning and it was night on the first day. The next day, Ann, who is alone and possibly the only living female left on the earth, as only venturing outside the protected valley would allow one to assess the possibly.

This morning she is hunting, for dinner as even the animals that are within the valley are protected from exposure. Free flowing water or anything outside the valley is contaminated which is where we meet Loomis, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, still sick from contamination he stumbles out of his trailer and also in a haze mat suit, peels it off, with scientific equipment he tests the air and himself for radiation levels, all seems to be within normal ranges. He has found an Eden complete with a waterfall, after some time he is showering when Ann hears him.

The scene where the two met, he a scientist exposed to the world and catastrophic effects of radiation damage, the mental, and physical deterioration of travelers he met along the way, survival of the fittest, brings deep and traumatizing decisions.

Loomis, suffering from Post-Traumatic stress, exhaustion, dehydration, believes Ann is trying to kill him. Screaming she explains the water doesn’t originate from the valley which means it is contaminated. He immediately begins to react to the position.

Nursing him, fortunately he has the medicine and before he passes out explains she has to inject him.

Soon, he recovers life get better. As a scientists and mechanical engineer he is able to visualize how he can create a working environment again. He begins by instructing Ann on how to get the electric gas pump down at the convenience store to pump gas, then he begins to fix things; soon he envisions how electricity can be created using a water wheel.

It is a tranquil life, with Ann and Loomis, working together and soon as they are apparently it on the earth, and neither seems to be that far outside ones pre-apocalyptic possibilities should their paths ever crossed in pre-tragedy life.

Suddenly the life of two is disrupted as Caleb, played by Chris Pine, shows up. A local who somehow managed to escape the fall out, he makes his way to Ann’s generous humanity. A nurturer, caregiver, she believes every person is innately good. Somewhat naïve that seems to be a quality easily exploited in post-apocalyptic world of three.

Soon tranquility is replaced with love triangle. Caleb and Loomis couldn’t be any more different; they are essentially black and white in every area of life.

I enjoyed the film. Z for Zachariah is good and holds the attention before introducing the variable of choice. Soon the tension is growing and manipulation is eating away at the confidence which is causing the balance of life assumed between Ann and Loomis to be questioned and suddenly unsure.

Not that there are a lot of fish in the sea, the world is limited to pockets of survivors, which is only known in theory. Now certainly isn’t the time to take to the highways which leaves Loomis, who isn’t leaning simply on his qualities, to decide if Darwinism tactics apply here.

Z for Zachariah as Mr. Ejiofor said at the media day, “a three hander” which means in actuality you have two or three leads and that’s it. No explosions, special effects, computer generated additions. It is carried by the story, talent and dialogue.

The film brings three well trained, highly skilled talents and put them together. They, against the story line and landscape have to carry the film, and they do. They play the emotions well, bringing the tension, the ebb and flow of life, need, desire, survival and genuineness as well as insincerity, naivete, and shame.

Z for Zachariah is a three person story which could easily be a theater production. The dialogue, actions and close proximity to the center of the film, it never leaves the valley. Even after everything, the post nuclear winter the loss, life and procreation, love and the hope of a future lead the characters.

The film is very well done. It presents an element of post-apocalyptic nuclear life that hasn’t been explored. Yes, there are always survivors in these films, never living within a nuclear free protected exterior zone, which clearly is protected by a higher power, which Ann would credit God and Loomis science.

Z for Zachariah opens August 28, 2015. Check local listings.

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