Carriers is a 2007 film set in the post-apocalyptic wake of a lethal pandemic. Directed by David and Alex Pastor, it follows a small group of survivors – Brian (Chris Pine), his brother Danny (Lou Taylor Pucci), and their girlfriends, Bobby (Piper Perabo) and Kate (Emily VanCamp) – who hope to find refuge on the southwest coast. But as the four companions try to stay alive and avoid the infected, they begin to turn on each other; and from there, things can only get worse…
It’s a simple premise and not an original one at that. What makes it intriguing is the way it is executed. Filled with moral dilemmas and flawed, even unlikeable, characters, the story cycles through the implications of an evolutionary worldview with disturbing accuracy. To call Carriers grim would be the understatement of the year.
The suspense here is based – not in the violent or the grotesque, though there is some of both – but in watching the characters react to an environment where fear of infection is ever present.
Man is innately self-centered, which means that, left to himself and confronted with “hard decisions”, he will almost always place his own needs before those of his neighbor. What moral obligation would compel him to do otherwise? The word “civilized” is rendered meaningless when civilization has ceased to exist. All that’s left is survival of the fittest.
May the biggest, baddest dog win.
Brian is the de facto leader of the group. He’s cynical, he’s quick-tempered, but he’s no slouch when it comes to enforcing the rules. One, avoid the infected at all costs. Two, disinfect anything they’ve touched in the last 24 hours. Three, the sick are already dead. They can’t be saved.
“You break the rules, you die,” Danny remarks. “You follow them, you live. Maybe.”
Theoretically, the rules may seem simple enough. Practically and consistently applied, however, they assume a more sinister aspect. It soon becomes clear just how far Brian and his companions are willing to go in order to survive.
Early in the film, they meet a man, Frank, and his infected 6-year-old daughter, Jodie. Brian reluctantly agrees to bargain: in exchange for Frank’s car, he agrees to take Frank and his daughter to a nearby high school, where a serum for the disease is rumored to have been developed. Upon arrival they discover that the serum is useless. Having “carried out” his part of the bargain, Brian coldly makes his next move: he packs up the vehicle and drives off – leaving Frank and Jodie to their fate.
Not long after this, Bobby discovers the dreaded rash on her own body. Infection. She tries to hide it from the others, but you can’t hide something like that forever. Brian catches on. Without hesitation, he pulls over on the side of the road. “Get out.” When she doesn’t move, he drags her roughly from the car and shoves her away. “Please don’t do this,” she weeps. But he does. He gets back in the car and drives on without a second look.
Oh, well. You gotta do what you gotta do, right?
Fuel is running low when Brian encounters two women heading in the opposite direction. This time, Danny tells his brother to stay put. “I’ll handle this.” He walks slowly toward the other vehicle and asks for help. “We just need some gas. Could you give us some gas? Please?” The women refuse.
Brian gets out and shoots them both on the spot.
The final act of savagery occurs mere days later, when Danny realizes that Brian is infected, too. It is at this point that the viewer expects some sort of reprieve. Surely he’ll spare his own brother, we think. He doesn’t. “You made the rules,” he tells Brian. And then he pulls the trigger.
Danny and Kate eventually make it to the coast. But there can be no “happily ever after” in this scenario. Survival, at any cost, is the only thing that matters. It hurts. The last words we hear are hopeless and full of regret: “I don’t know what will happen next. I don’t know how long I’ll live. But I know I will be alone.”
Fade to black.
“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever
loses his life will keep it.” (Luke 17:33)