This week’s apocalypse is of the viral rage zombie type, though, to give the film its due, it is one that develops somewhat more like an actual pandemic in five increasingly horrifying stages. We’re in the larger Los Angeles area. After the fall of New York, things are getting rather desperate, with a few survivors holed up in a military base whose commander Greer (Paul Guilfoyle) is still trying to find a cure for or a vaccination against the infection causing what nobody in the movie calls zombie-ism.
We’ll be watching most of the film’s proceedings through the hazmat suit
helmet cameras of Doctor Lauren Chase (Rachel Nichols) – for the last of the CDC
and a survivor of what reads very much like the end of New York rather lacking
in battle-hardedness as you’ll notice –, a traffic cop turned, well, gunner
(Mekhi Phifer), con and driver Wheeler (Alfie Allen) and local guide – which
seems to mean she’s able to operate a simple GPS device without it exploding or
something – Denise (Missi Pyle). These guys are a freshly minted team sent out
in an armoured school bus to try and pick up a bunch of survivors another team
that’s missing in action has hopefully secured in a school. Obviously, things
won’t go too well, and not just because Lauren has a wee little secret, Gunner’s
a bit too battle-hardened, and their mission makes little sense.
Which really is par for the course in John Suits’s film, seeing as it
features a pretty astonishing number of huge plot holes and thinly “it’s in the
script!” reasons for much that happens in i. Or could anyone explain to me why
Greer would risk his oh-so-precious final survivor of the CDC by sending her out
only so that she can apply a simple test for the infection you could teach a
monkey inside of five minutes? Or later on, how Wheeler finds Lauren and Denise
again? Or how the film and the characters could forget a weapon Lauren
and Wheeler will be threatened with is actually empty? Now, as my imaginary
readers probably know by now, I’m not one of these people who are always
nitpicking and spending their time watching a movie more interested in looking
for mistakes instead of actually watching it, but some of these things are so
egregious it’s impossible not to notice them. Most of them are completely
unnecessary to boot. Would it have really killed the script to find a better
reason for the doomed mission, for example?
Still, it’s not all bad. Particularly in the early stages, Pandemic
promises a vigorous and depressing variation on the zombie apocalypse, with
violence that actually feels unpleasant, and the proper feeling of futility.
Unfortunately, for every scene of unpleasant violence, there’s another one where
the film uses its helmet camera conceit to turn into a really crappy first
person shooter for a scene or two, throwing believability and a consistent mood
out of the window for a shitty action scene; and for every believable human
moment given to the more than decent cast, there’s another one that is either
undermined by the script’s laziness (or stupidity, depending on one’s tastes) or
just a lack of imagination.
There are some good moments in here, but these are moments buried under way
too much business as usual in zombie land and and a huge number of
implausibilities and plain bad plotting, so I don’t think anyone should run out
to see Pandemic.