The phrase “everything old is new again” takes on new meaning with the release of the three-hander Z For Zachariah, a post-apocalyptic story in which a nuclear war appears to have wiped out everyone except for a young Southern woman (Margot Robbie), a black man (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and a mysterious white man (Chris Pine) — seemingly the last three people on Earth, or at least in this corner of it.
As I say in my video review (click the link above), I am not accusing writer Nissar Modi of stealing (their script is actually based on the late Robert C. O’Brien’s Edgar-winning novel), but the basic premise of this film seemed awfully familiar as I was watching it. And then I remembered the 1959 film The World, The Flesh And The Devil, which also was set in the aftermath of a nuclear war and also focused completely on the relationship between a white woman (Inger Stevens) and a black man (Harry Belafonte), whose own tenuous connection is upended when a mysterious white man (Mel Ferrer) enters the picture. It wasn’t very good as I recall, and basically the premise is where the similarity ends with this new film which was well-received when it played the Sundance Film Festival in January.
The Craig Zobel-directed Z For Zachariah in fact takes this intriguing situation, infuses it with a fascinating human story, and best of all lets three fine actors (like the non-related 1959 film making up the entire cast list) run with it. Of course at the center of this is eventually sexual tension among the trio, but it is nicely played out and subtlely done. The stars could not be better and they make this 95-minute drama entirely watchable. Ejiofor brings real dignity to his role as a man near death from the effects of radiation who is nursed back by Robbie’s character, a woman whose spirit still manages to live on. Robbie is outstanding in another American accent (she’s Australian) that seems flawless; she is fast becoming one of the best out there now. Pine also is excellent adding a layer of tension and sexual energy to the simple story which focuses on the survival not just of these three but of humanity itself.
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Roadside Attractions will release the film in limited engagements Friday. It was produced by Sophia Lin, Matthew Plouffe, Skuli Fr. Malmquist, Sigurjon Sighvatsson, Thor Sigurjonsson and Tobey Maguire, whose production company Material Pictures made the independently financed movie (along with several other credited companies — it takes a village these days).
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