Okay so there are zombies in Manhattan, so.... what else is new? Everybody knows that-- just look at the number of Starbucks there are in New York. But seriously, Will Smith has come a long way since 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air', to say the least. His last two movies have shown a maturation of his acting skills, and a willingness to stretch out more than a little. This movie is, in that sense, a stretch as well. The movie is one hour 40 minutes, short by many standards, and the pace is quite slow at the beginning, as the director commendably allows the story to unfold gradually. The last thirty minutes of the film pick up the pace to a breathless rate. By then we have seen the loneliness, the angst, the anger, the pride of Col. Neville, who still thinks he can develop a vaccine, even a cure for the zombies, even though his failure rate after two years of trying was 100%. Hope springs eternal. This movie should have been called 'Good Will Hunting'--- but that title was taken.
Col. Robert Neville, a soldier and a scientist (as we discover from seeing the covering of Time with his picture on it stuck on his refrigerator) is apparently the last real man standing in Manhattan, looking for a cure for a disease that has either killed most of humanity or turned them into zombies. One Dr. Krippen apparently thought that the measles virus could cure cancer if used differently. Did it work--- NOT SO MUCH!!! In this movie medical research gets to be both the villain, and in the end the hero as Neville develops the vaccine against the plague.
Col. Neville is accompanied only by his trust German shepherd Sam, and in one sense, this movie is about a man and his dog. He keeps broadcasting on all AM frequencies hoping to find another non-zombie human, and then two show up, having driven to Manhattan from Maryland! They regale Col. Neville with the news there is a survivor colony in the Vermont mountains. When Neville presses 'Anna' on how she knows this, her answer is simple---'God told me'--- an answer Neville is not much inclined to believe (even though at the beginning of the film his wife prays for his safety as she and their child are leaving NY). Could it just be coincidence that Anna and Ethan drove up just as Col. Neville was about to give himself up as zombie food, and they saved his life? Or was that a singular providence of God? The movie actually raises this issue, and does so effectively.
Without spoiling the movie's ending, I will say that Anna was not 15% shy of plumb, and Col. Neville had not done all that laboratory work for nothing. In the end, Neville gets to be a self-sacrificial savior figure in more than one sense. Not soldier as savior in this film, but to some extent scientist as savior.
This movie has some very graphic CG scenes of zombies on the prowl, more than a little hungry, and as such it probably deserved an R rating rather than a PG-13 rating. Having said this, it may well be the best drama/sci-fi/suspense/horror flick out there during this Christmas season of slim pickins. It will probably not win any Oscars, but it is a film that is rather well done, and in various respects is thought provoking. The ability of the human race to survive requires a self-sacrificial savior-- at least now and again.