Carriers: Why The Pandemic Movie Is More Important 11 Years Later
Carriers is the perfect movie representation of the effects of COVID-19 that has largely gone undiscovered until now. In March 2020, Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 thriller, Contagion, was getting all the credit and the attention of a quarantined audience. However, six months into the pandemic, when Americans now know what it’s like to live with an earth-stopping virus, Carriers is easily as relatable as Contagion.
The post-apocalyptic thriller Carriers, from screenwriter-and-director brotherly duo Alex and David Pastor, leaves a harrowing and meaningful impression 11 years after its initial 2009 theatrical release. Due to its limited release in the United States and the fact that it sat on the shelf for three years to coincide with Chris Pine’s success in Star Trek, Carriers went on to make just under $6 million at the box office.Click the button below to start this article in quick view. Start now
Promoted as if it was akin to 28 Days Later, Carriers was written off as being forgettable and too similar to any other post-apocalyptic movie it may have been reminiscent of, since it lacked the action fans of the infected and the undead craved. But Carriers is more about establishing an atmosphere; the movie is a slow burn that matches how a virus spreads and how carefree the world can be to something so vitally destructive. This is not only what makes Carriers ahead of its time, but likely the ultimate pandemic movie.
Carriers Successfully Envisions A Plagued World
The inconclusive ending of Carriers was frustrating at the time since it felt like a placeholder between movies of a possible franchise. Now, it seems to match America's approach to COVID feeling just as hopeless as when the quarantine first began but humans, as a species, are still here. As in Carriers, nothing is certain and a cure doesn’t seem to be any closer to becoming a reality, but that desire to survive is still overwhelming. Sanctuary is all that is sought even if it’s only temporary. That indecisiveness of where where the would will be when and if COVID is finally vanquished is captured flawlessly within the 84-minute runtime of Carriers. A doctor that doesn’t have much screen time is given one of the most important lines in the film, “Sometimes choosing life is just choosing a more painful form of death.”
The supposed different strains of COVID can be anywhere from just losing a sense of taste and smell or having fatigue to being hospitalized with a serious fever or even dying from the virus entirely. At the time of this writing, there's no known medication for COVID. A positive test result becomes a two week self-quarantine that evolves into a feeble grasp at normality after a negative test. If positive, the cycle repeats until it’s hopefully gone or the condition worsens.
Carriers depicts a constant struggle between two brothers. Danny (Lou Taylor Pucci) hasn’t experienced enough of the apocalypse to do what needs to be done. He wants to save everyone, and doesn’t have much blood on his hands since he was on the verge of going to college when the apocalypse happened. Meanwhile, Brian (Chris Pine) is doing whatever needs to be done in order for their group to survive. He dug countless graves for the dead and even killed his parents before the virus could fully take hold of them. The compassionate are seen as weak in Carriers, while those lacking remorse and sympathy persevere. Being inhuman and emotionless is a realistic perspective in this world; there’s a thin line between decency and morals and actual survival.
Carriers Delivers Smart, Timely Social Commentary
Many have tried to say that COVID came from overseas, with the first death from the virus occurring in China. Since it’s something that affected the entire world, it’s difficult to say where it actually began. In Contagion, the disease began in Hong Kong. Carriers approaches this aspect when Brian and Danny’s group drive by a Chinese man’s corpse tied to a water tower with a derogatory sign strapped to him, blaming his race for the virus. Humans can be close-minded and imperfect as a species, and can often be quick to blame anyone or anything in hopes of shifting credit as long as accountability is pointed in the other direction. With a virus of this stature, it simply doesn’t matter where it came from.
Carriers takes place after civilization has already fallen. The nation—and possibly even the world—is in shambles. Those who are still alive are living on scraps and steal from other scavengers. Brian and Danny try to make rules that their group shouldn’t break if the intention is to live. Of course, Carriers dives into why those rules would have to be broken, but said rules include avoiding the infected at all costs, disinfecting everything with bleach, and attempting to avoid major highways. These characters wear masks and gloves, and isolate themselves from the contagious virus when needed, just like what is required to go out in public in 2020.
In the movie, there's a constant conflict between doing what’s right and having a "kill or be killed" attitude. Chris Pine delivers one of his best performances with a seemingly cutthroat demeanor that is completely thrown out the window during the final half-hour of the film. Brian's character encompasses those that feel blessed with immunity from the virus, but then contract the virus anyway, due to carelessness. Carriers envisions the future and what could have been through dialogue and what was planned before the virus. There’s this inevitable wait for nature to be as ugly as what the world has become combined with an uncertainty regarding the fate of civilization.
Carriers is not a perfect film, but its impact resonates so heavily in modern times that it deserves to be revisited or seen for the first time while everything feels fresh. Great horror movies have often been acclaimed for their cultural significance or impact, so the accuracy of selfishness and self-centeredness in a desperate and uncertain time is utterly terrifying.