As an antibiotic-resistant pandemic devastates the planet, the only safe place is in the air.
The Carrier is a 2015 UK import. It’s an outbreak thriller in which a small group of airline employees flee an infection-devastated London, in the hopes of finding safety and/or a cure in Greenland. Thing is, several of the folks allowed on board this older (and damaged) 747 are already infected when it first takes flight. Infection is spread by simple touch, and results in either death or an immediate disfigurement of inflicted body areas – creating pus-filled sacs and an appearance not unlike The Elephant Man. One of the employees, Eric (Joe Dixon) has higher ideals in mind – this plane cannot land overseas, for fear of additional spreading of the disease. When they set down on an abandoned runway in a more rural area of the UK to search for fuel, they must now add to their already trying list of problems – possible infected hijackers and roaming looters (visually reminding me of the desperate and grotesque family in The Hills Have Eyes). Sabotage, mistrust and plenty of double-crossing ensue.
The Carrier has a double meaning – clearly the fact that so many of the characters are carriers of this vicious disease, but also that this massive 747 is carrying them away from the falling and failing London – what one character calls “Hell”.
What’s mind-blowing and deeply impressive about The Carrier, is that these filmmakers had access to a real 747. So many times you would wonder if these were just incredibly detailed sets. And from what I could tell, most of the time, they were not. As for the plane’s exterior – whether awaiting a gas-up on the runway, or allowing a tragic action scene with the actors on its wings – its presence brings real authenticity to the film’s proceedings. Again, I was damn impressed.
The film is an ensemble piece and I found all of the actors to be quite convincing. One biggie problem with the film, is that we have no central character. I’m a great big fan of ensemble pieces – a group of rag-tag folks of different types put together in a powder-keg scenario… but even in scripts like this, there still has to be that one well-written character with whom we can identify and with whom we will gladly tag along over their difficult and rocky road. There isn’t one in The Carrier, and that’s a definite fail.
But the film does have an acting stand-out. One of those smarmy (yet handsome) characters whom we love to hate – pilot Tobias Black (played by Edmund Kingsley). He provides a solid and rational commander for this small band of survivors and he certainly knows he’s indispensable (he’s the only one who can fly the plane and who has access to the gun). I found him the most sensible and level-headed person in the group, and much like the character I immediately compared him to (Joe Bernthal’s “Shane” of The Walking Dead), he was also the person who could most easily destroy a life with no second thought. But his actions (however intelligent they may be in a survival situation) are still dark and without a moral compass. But that’s why we love him and why he (and the actor portraying him) are set apart from the rest.
I also appreciated the no-nonsense aspect of the film. There are a few moments of schmaltz, but it was never something that distracted, and by some of the folks following their heart, it never seemed out of line with reality. I think that’s one of the triumphs of the film, is that the script and characters made choices that (while not always smart) made sense in the situation.
The make-up effects were incredibly impressive. There were plenty of close-ups of the characters’ disfigurement – and the gag-worthy tumors were seamless. There’s also a gruesome arm amputation sequence (reminiscent of Romero’s Day of the Dead) supposedly serving to head off the infection before it spreads in one of the characters.
The visual effects are also pretty amazing. A great majority of the film takes place in the air, and so the frequent shots of the plane in flight — with another smaller plane entering the picture later — I would assume were not actually filmed mid-flight, but that we werein fact looking at CGI. But the transfers from computer to actual footage of this massive plane, are seamless.
The film could have benefited from a bit more tension. As a whole it certainly kept my attention, but at points, the pacing seemed to lag. Honestly, I thought the score was a little cheesy, and that didn’t add up to a good match with the action happening on the screen. I felt as though the film (at an easy 90 minutes) could still have been tightened a bit, thus bringing the tension to a more fever pitch. Not terrible in its depiction of chaos… just not right on the mark.
The Carrier is a fine gem to take in on a Saturday afternoon as you’re perusing your own on-demand platform. As I’ve so often said in my reviews, it’s not a film-going experience which will alter your direction or offer you new insights into the meaning of life. It is however a very well-produced film with a cast of gifted thespians, an intriguing story and one helluva legit prop taking center stage.
And it entertains. And in the end, isn’t that what effective movies are supposed to do?
The Carrier was recently released in the UK, with US release dates forthcoming.