Z for Zachariah Blu-ray review
A small community sits in a valley. Building exteriors have not been maintained and interiors are in shambles. Chairs are overturned on school desks, books collect dust in the local library. The sole human who ventures between the hills has to wear a protective suit so they won’t catch any of radiation.
That human is Ann Burden (Margot Robbie, Martin Scorsese’s THE WOLF OF WALL STREET; she’s set to play Harley Quinn in 2016’s SUICIDE SQUAD). Above the town, which has been left unpopulated by nuclear disaster, Ann lives on a plot of farmland with her dog. She is, to her knowledge, the only survivor. But one morning, she ventures out and finds a man in his own suit. When he emerges from it, he screams with joy, assuming no one can hear him. Soon after, Ann spots the man, a scientist named John Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Steve McQueen’s 12 YEARS A SLAVE, Ridley Scott’s THE MARTIAN), bathing in a contaminated lake, which results in immediate sickness.
Ann takes John in and nurses him back to health. They form the sort of bond only they could have; any potential clashes (like, say, tearing down Ann’s father’s church so they can have wood for a water wheel) are quickly silenced with a mutual understanding. This is disrupted by the presence of yet another survivor, Caleb (Chris Pine, James T. Kirk in the J.J. Abrams STAR TREK reboots). If the movie ran another few hours, the town might have enough for a baseball team…
The initial conflict of Z FOR ZACHARIAH, which is based on Robert C. O’Brien’s posthumous 1974 novel (which won an Edgar Award), is maintaining a life where there is no life, existing in a place where existence has been eradicated. This is steady with the introduction of John, who is a compelling addition. But it all quickly changes once Caleb turns up about halfway through. At that point, the movie then turns into something of a love story, a triangle in which the audience is supposed to invest in simply because a third party has come into the picture.
This is where the movie loses its way. While Z FOR ZACHARIAH doesn’t turn into a full-blown romance (too many dead turkeys, perhaps?), the issues of place and religion that the viewer is meant ponder are shoved aside so they can ask, Who will not be invited to the final scenes and who will be Ann’s soulmate?
Like any movie with a small cast, Z FOR ZACHARIAH depends so much on the performances. Fortunately, director Craig Zobel (2012’s COMPLIANCE) has assembled an excellent trio (Robbie in particular is stellar, showing that she is much more than just the sexy blonde thing many thought her to be two years ago) that do more to keep the viewer interested than the story can.
Z FOR ZACHARIAH played at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize.
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Details and textures are strong, while colors are healthy and presented wonderfully in the exterior scenes, all of which makes Tim Orr’s cinematography feel more natural.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Subtitles in English and Spanish. Dialogue is clear, sound effects (particularly gunshots) come through nicely and the score (by Heather McIntosh) is effective yet unobtrusive.
The Making of Z FOR ZACHARIAH (11:28): This promotional piece features interviews (with the primary cast and director Craig Zobel) and clips.
Deleted Scenes (6:00): There are four here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole.
Extended Interviews (20:14) with Zobel, Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor and writer Nissar Modi.