by HELEN GEIB
I was surprised how much I enjoyed I Am Legend. And not in a guilty pleasure sort of way, but in a this is a genuinely entertaining movie way. Although one extremely weak plot twist and a too pat coda prove the film is not entirely immune to blockbusteritis, it does, thankfully, avoid the twin plagues of excessive length and over-reliance on special effects. The film clocks in at a taut 90 minutes, perfect for holding a mood of sustained dread, and is fundamentally a focused character study of a man being driven mad by solitude.
Will Smith delivers a knockout performance in the lead (and almost the only human) role. Most of the movie is just him and his faithful dog companion moving around a post-apocalyptic New York City in a daily routine of hunting and gathering, viral research testing on ravenous plague-infected subjects, and broadcasting messages into the void. The man is teetering on the brink of completely losing it, and it’s Smith’s triumph that he reveals that truth gradually and subtly.
The filmmakers’ triumph is its transformation of New York into a “post humanity” world, the quintessential urban environment returned to nature. The production design is imaginative and beautifully realized; the perfect, essential backdrop to this story. I could almost recommend the movie solely for the scenes of Smith hunting deer down Broadway and harvesting corn in Central Park.
Other new releases this week: Atonement, Enchanted, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising, Southland Tales