Pandemic is that first-person-shooter-style zombie movie that we have all been waiting for. Or, were we?..
Zombie themed anythings really have to go and take a breather for the next 5 or even better 10 years. In the past years media managed to cover this topic from every angle possible. From your over the top zombie monsters in Resident Evil(s), to blockbuster in World War Z down heart gripping character moments in The Walking Dead, and everything in between. If at this point someone comes up with a truly original zombie story, I will take of my hat, but Pandemic, unfortunately, doesn’t, although it does have a few interesting story beats. While the word ‘zombie’ itself has not be said in the movie once, it is obvious from the very first minutes that this is indeed a zombie film.
• Director: John Suits
• Exhibition: 2D
• Rating: NR
• Run Time: 1h 31m
The story is set in the near future, where a mysterious virus has infected most of the U.S. population, who are now dying of the diseases composed of five stages. In Pandemic-verse, it seems like the first stage can be curable, while progressing further will lead to the 5th and final stage of zombification. In between these stages, the infected become sick, violent, cannibalistic. Other this take on the zombie virus, the backstory is how you would expect: virus of unknown origins, government was unprepared and collapsed, leaving people to fend for themselves, no proper vaccine as of yet, well, you know the story.
The protagonist of the story, doctor Lauren Chase (Rachel Nichols) arrives to a government compound and is immediately thrown into a four person team for a rescue mission of the lost group. Other members of the team are Gunner (Mekhi Phifer), an ex-cop, Wheeler (Alfie Allen), an ex-convict and navigator Denise (Messi Pyle), who lost a son prior to the out break. Denise and Lauren almost instantly form a bond, as Lauren’s daughter has been missing and possibly dead in the aftermath of the virus break out.
It never seemed like any members of the team had previous relationship with each other or developed any emotional attachments. There is, however, a lot of bickering. And while they would lift a hand to help in a zombie fight, it is mostly for self preservation notion that with more guns / baseball bats they have better chances on surviving. The behaviour of characters doesn’t always add up, even when considered in the aftermath of the plot twists coming later in the movie. For example, Lauren acts very cool headed and decisive one moment, and then completely lost and helpless another.
The story of Pandemic is hinged on Lauren trying to find her daughter and bring her back to the compound and safety. A task, for which she risks the lives of her companions many times. The story overall is exactly what you would expect from a zombie movie. You fight a horde, get separated, discover a gruesome scene, fight some more, someone dies and so on. Thankfully, there are a couple of plot twists splashed in the middle and end of the movie, which while not entirely unpredictable, were a breath of fresh air, nonetheless.
The performance by the actors is at best average, Alfie Allen being a stand out from the rest. Although, for anyone who have seen his performance in Game of Thrones, this is hardly surprising. It doesn’t help that for the most part of the film, the characters are always seen through their helmets, that supposed to protect them from the virus. The narration does come up with a plausible reason for some of the characters to remove the helmets later on in the movie, which helps overall.
Most of Pandemic is filmed as if from the camera positioned of the character’s helmets, which brings all the flaws that you might expect. The fighting scenes are confusing, disorientating and could give you that sea-sickness feeling. The character scenes look awkwardly framed and end of guns or other various weapons tend to creep up from the corner. There are, of course, also the benefits of experiencing this world through first-person lens. The story feels more personal, strange, confused and worrying. There aren’t wide shots showing the devastation of the whole L.A. The city is always seen how you would see if you were there: fragmented and only limited to you line of sight or places where you have been. You should be scared because you only see a part of devastation on your path, while side streets are the unknown.
Of course, the problem is that you as a viewer, you always know what the unknown is because you have seen this movie many times before. However, once you step away from the topic itself, the film has merits. There are plot twists, interesting character moments and developments that add metaphorical colour to understandably bleak zombie apocalypse. Also I am sure there are still zombie genre fans out there, who are not tired of the survival among the undead topic and found like to add this movie to their library.
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Tags: Alfie Allen, John Suits, Mekhi Phifer, Messi Pyle, Rachel Nichols, Resident Evil, The Walking Dead, World War Z