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I AM LEGEND

SYNOPSIS:
Robert Neville (Will Smith) is a brilliant scientist, but even he could not contain the virus that was meant to cure cancer. Instead, it transformed into an unstoppable, incurable and horrifying plague that infected mankind around the world. One of the rare humans immune to it, Neville is now the last human survivor in what is left of New York City and maybe the world – with his faithful dog Sam. For three years, Neville has faithfully sent out daily radio messages, desperate to find any other survivors who might be out there. But he is not alone. Victims of the plague, The Infected, lurk in the dark, unable to withstand light, watching Neville's every move... waiting for him to make a fatal mistake. Neville is driven by his desperate mission to find a way to reverse the effects of the virus using his own immune blood. But he knows he is vastly outnumbered... and quickly running out of time.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Perhaps in details a far cry from Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel (with the period’s Cold War playing a role), this fourth screen adaptation of I Am Legend retains the basic concept of a man-made cure turning into a nasty bug that infects humans with a savage desire to devour those who are not so infected. The original vampire element has been harnessed and twisted so that the infected are a higher breed of zombie than low budget zombie movies could afford. In that regard, the film is spectacularly successful, with these extremely powerful, albino creatures exploding with venom and menace.

They make a stark contrast to Will Smith’s self contained scientist, Neville, who has learnt his survival skills over three years alone against these monsters of the night. Smith is superb, creating a credible character with whom we emphasise and whose sense of guilt and need for redemption are almost tangible.

Director Francis Lawrence is not afraid to let the story unravel at a steady pace; instead of relying on pace, he injects tension into every scene. We first meet Neville driving through derelict, abandoned Manhattan’s streets as taken over by nature; he is driving a gleaming red Maserati convertible – the first, most obvious and clumsy product placement in the film. The car is never seen again. But Fords show up in various scenes, as do signs for Broadway shows like Wicked … but who cares. Neville’s dog, Sam, gets my attention from the start, a fine piece of acting from a lovely dog, which three years earlier had belonged to Neville’s little girl, Marley (Willow Smith), who was evacuated from Manhattan along with her mum Zoe (Salli Richardson) – and the rest of the city.

The storytelling is taut and we find ourselves piecing together the bigger picture while Neville takes us on a survival course. First we are teased with scenes of Neville hunting stags along streets lined with ruined cars, offering visual punch, thanks to some outstanding cinematography (Oscar winning Andrew Lesnie) blended with CGI. The end result is an eerie, creepy, doomsday-laden film with plenty of thrills – and for anyone so inclined, a smattering of metaphors that pass comment on the human condition.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

I AM LEGEND (M)
(US, 2007)

CAST: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan, Salli Richardson, Willow Smith

PRODUCER: Akiva Gooldsman, David Heyman, James Lassiter, Erwin Stoff

DIRECTOR: Francis Lawrence

SCRIPT: Akiva Gooldsman, Mark Protosevich (novel by Richard Matheson)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Lesnie

EDITOR: Wayne Wahrman

MUSIC: James Newton Howard

PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Lazan, Naomi Shohan

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 3, 2008







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