HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Z for Zachariah
HTS Overall Score:74
Post-apocalyptic films have been in high demand lately, ranging from zombie post-apocalyptic terror, to the more advanced levels in films like “Insurgent” and the like. “Z for Zachariah” is a much more laid back take on the genre, standing apart from the rest by stepping back from a nonstop action fest and sits back in the lawn chair with a glass of lemonade. The story sometimes feels like it lacks a narrative structure, and instead is content to follow our main characters around for the duration of the film, watching their every move. I can’t exactly compare the film to the book, as I haven’t had a chance to read it, but it seems to follow rather accurately (at least for the most part) from what I’ve been able to gather from chatter on the interwebs). I will say this, Chris Pine is at his most laid back and least aggressive role to date.
It’s the end of the world, or something like that. Radiation poisoning has killed off most of the population and Ann Burden (Margot Robbie) thinks that she’s the last surviving human on Earth. Is until she runs across John Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a wandering scientist who thought that HE was the last person on the planet. Combining their resources, the young Ann and the older John allow a friendship to unfold. Both longing for human contact they seem to have a sort of “last person on the planet” romantic spark, but it goes nowhere due to John wanting to keep things as stable las possible. Desiring to build a water wheel using the wood from Ann’s father’s old church, John thinks he can bring back electricity to their little world.
Their little world is going along swimmingly until a third human being wanders into their circle. Caleb (Chris Pine), is a wandering man who is on the verge of exhaustion and starvation until Ann invites him into the home. While Caleb is an affable enough young man, there starts to form a bit of a jealous triangle as the two men silently vie for Ann’s attention. Starting out as simple jealousy and resentment, the two men square off as politely as possible, with only one inevitable outcome possible in this dog eat dog world.
“Z for Zachariah” is a bit of a slow paced film. Introspective, it is more concerned about watching how the character grow and pushing along a heavy plot with some massive twist at the end. It almost unfolds like a slice of life film, with an emphasis on long single shots of nature and to accentuate the challenges of the three main characters. In fact, Anne, Caleb and John are the ONLY characters in the entire film. While the plot point about making the waterwheel is essential to them rebuilding their society, the film’s main purpose seems to be watching the characters change once they realize that they’re not the only humans left. The romantic triangle is a bit interesting, as we have the two young ones and then John on the outside trying to look in. Ann is malleable and confused, attracted to Caleb physically, but emotionally feeling more in tune with John Loomis. The end brings this romance to a head, but leaves just enough ambiguity about the actions of John and Caleb so as to make one ponder about what REALLY happens.
The best AND the worst part of the film is that it’s almost TOO subtle in its message. The laid back storytelling really works, accentuating and highlighting the toils and struggles of living in a world where nothing is like it once was, but at the same time, the slow paced film may go by so slowly that most people may just tune out the point of the movie. I enjoyed much of what I saw, but at the same time I felt that more structure to the narrative would have been a good thing. It almost feels like we’re just watching a slice of life in a post-apocalyptic environment. We see a few months out of their life and then we move on to the ending. There is no major twist to the end, which is a boon considering the amount of ridiculous twists that populate movies today, but the sluggish pace tends to rob the ending of any power because you almost don’t see it coming.
Rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality, partial nudity, and brief strong language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=56666[/img]The 2.39:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray looks more than fine, with strong detail and wonderful colors. The film was shot completely digitally, with Arri Alexa cameras and while usually finely detailed, does look a bit soft a lot of the time. The grey and blue color grading tends to accentuate that little flaw in the picture. Even though this isn’t a J.J. Abrahams film (little joke there), I noticed that the cinematographer Tim Orr would shoot with the light straight ahead, which tends to bring in a good bit of lens flare to the movie. Combine that with a bit of shaky cam shooting and it carries a very unique look to the film. Fine detail is generally very strong, with minor loss in detail due to the soft look inherent to the movie, and black levels are just about as strong. Some of the color grading make the blacks grey out a bit sometimes, but it was never enough to really complain about. A solid transfer, “Z for Zachariah” manages to look very nice, despite some strange shooting techniques.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=56674[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track sounds just like how you would expect for a slow paced drama. Dialog is the main emphasis here, with the center channel taking the brunt of the weight. Vocals are crisp and clean, with a wonderful sharpness and clarity. I never once found myself shifting the volume up or down as the characters moved into different situations. There are a few moments of LFE rumble, especially when the waterwheel gets movie, but by and large this is a very dialog heavy sound track. Surround DO get a strong workout, as the ambient forest and field noises come through with pinpoint clarity. You can hear the scrape of a door in the background, or the rustling of wind across the top of the overgrown grass in the fields just come up from around you.
• The Making of Z for Zachariah
• Deleted Scenes
• Extended Interviews
“Z for Zachariah” is a cerebral and intelligent film but it somehow manages to not really emotionally engage the viewer. It has all of the right trappings for a good film, and in many ways is a GREAT film, but I felt a bit lost in the meandering pace. Margo and Chiwete l do a fantastic job at playing their respective characters, but Chris Pine was the standout here. I don’t mean standout in that he was the greatest character, but he stood out by being less of “Chris Pine”, as he is in so many movies, and he really occupied the character of Caleb. Audio and video are quite solid, and the middling extras are actually pretty intriguing, so I would say it’s worth a decent rental at the very least.
Starring: Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Directed by: Craig Zobel
Written by: Nissar Modi (Screenplay), Robert C. O'Brien (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 97 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 20th 2015
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