From the start I felt like I was watching a film directed by Greg McLean (Wolf Creek, Rogue). The cinematography had a crisp edge to it that pulled me into desolation. But instead of seclusion in the Australian outback, I was secluded with the characters in the western United States. Another similarity to Wolf Creek in particular was the protagonist introduction. Just when it seems like a big party, the movie begins to focus on deeper intricacies between and within characters.
After the altercation with Christopher Meloni's character (Christopher Meloni, who happened to be on celebrity Jeopardy the other day!), I was propelled deep into the movie, hooked for the duration. I've seen a lot of these apocalyptic thrillers, but there was something about the way Carriers establishes its premise with this early altercation that seriously hooked me. Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of the free-spirited protagonists speeding down the highway in a stolen Mercedes, drinking and laughing and yelling, and the dreadful situation they encounter.
In any case, the hook worked, and the movie did a great job with pacing and plot-building. The McLean-esque atmosphere continued to envelop me as the movie unraveled. Halfway through it was clear that the intention was to evoke an elevating level of dread and despair. In fact, the movie rids itself, almost entirely, of any form of comic relief. The feeling was reminiscent of I Am Legend: there were maybe three or four laughs, almost all from the golf resort scene. At one point it seemed the movie was going to explore some depths of religion, but it went no deeper than the usual surface skim.
The movie fulfills its purpose with confidence and eloquence. Choosing a (nonexistent?) minimal musical score complimented the bleak, desolate cinematography well. Normally this seems to exaggerate poor acting, but this doesn't apply to Carriers. The actors all pull their weight, thus pulling me into their lives--and without much actual "story" to give each character dimension. Instead, the viewer gets a good sense of each character's story and personality through their body and verbal language. The way they interact tells the connections between the characters. As the rule for storytelling goes (especially in cinema), "Show, don't tell."
Now for the hard part. As much as I loved the movie, the split personality in me also hated it. Mainly on grounds that it was savagely depressing. Bleak doesn't begin to describe the feelings evoked by this one. When the credits rolled I sat in my chair, a bit stunned, took a deep breath, and exhaled. Then, I shook my head in an attempt to clear the black cloud that had gathered there. Phew! I offer you this line from the movie to sum it all up: "Sometimes choosing life is just choosing a more painful form of death."