If that's not Cillian Murphy, I don't know who is (Crispin Glover?).
But just because The Silent City nails atmosphere above all else, that doesn't mean it does a poor job at anything. It's shockingly hard to write even basic war movie dialogue -- characters come off like they're either reading a field manual or in a 1950s school film about the dangers of foul language to developing young minds. But The Silent City strikes the right balance of jargon to slang, at least well enough to get you through to the incredibly chilling end note.
So it's a shame that I can't enjoy this flick at all. The filmmakers didn't do anything wrong to lose me -- that's entirely my fault. See, once in a while you notice something in a movie that throws you out of the entire experience. Sometimes it's a silly mistake -- like Theron's whole "half a billion miles from Earth" gaffe in Prometheus. But sometimes it's just the act of recognizing how a trick was done: It's spotting the wire in the pivotal action scene, or sensing the setup right before the big twist. In this case, there is one stupid, trivial, irrelevant detail that throws me, screaming, right the hell out of The Silent City: All of the soldiers are wearing my old novelty bicycle helmet.
It's like spotting your favorite NERF gun in Hunter Prey, or your old TV remote being used to hail the Enterprise. Objectively, you know it doesn't impact the story at all -- it's just a prop -- but all you can think every time they use it is just "That's not self-destruct; that's the AUX button," or "That shit isn't even rated for road use -- good luck protecting against the Unnamed Pursuing Terror of the Wasteland."
Zombie movies have been done to death (undead zing!), but that doesn't mean there's no territory left to explore. Once all conceivable plot twists and scenarios have been tried on, tweaked, and discarded, at the end of the day, a quality zombie flick is all about the execution (double undead zing!). To some extent, that's true of all horror: Finding new and novel situations is the cheapest way to refresh a horror property. ("What if, like, the Leprechaun goes to ... space?!" "Don't be ridiculous, Chaz; let's just have him go to the 'hood again.") But it's not always the best way. Sometimes it pays to just accept the default setting -- no rage viruses, no sprinting monsters, just slow, mindless zombies operating on Romero rules -- and focus on telling the best story you can within those given parameters.
With that in mind, Cargo does more for the relevancy of the zombie film in 30 seconds than the entire second season of The Walking Dead. The efficacy of the first few moments of Cargo is astounding: You know so much from that one little sequence. We're in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, the main character already knows about and accepts their existence, his wife has just died, and the stakes for his survival are incredibly high. That first minute is every bit as chilling as it is educational; it's like an after school special of the damned.
The premise of Cargo (you're uh ... you're watching these before you read the write-ups, right?) is ingenious. It takes you a second to catch on, but once you do, it hits you like a bullet to the brain. That scene with the bag is so gloriously twisted -- using his zombified self as a pack mule to carry his kid to safety -- but it's also touching, in a warped and unforgettable way. Cargo had to be made as a short -- there's not enough meat (he's done it, folks -- the triple undead zinger!) for a feature length film as it is -- but holy shit, imagine this as the last few minutes of a longer film or TV series. There would be a few dissenters pointing out that any time the zombie-dad turns, he'd pursue the bag in the wrong direction, or that the pack does nothing to stop other zombies from tearing the kid off his back -- but they would be the few rational, skeptical voices in an otherwise emotionally destroyed audience.
If you're feeling wronged by nerds somehow and want justice, just make this movie well. Give us two hours to love the father and wife/girlfriend/partner -- make us think they're the main characters -- and then end it like this. Just by the pure volume of emotional devastation, it would be the most effective form of revenge in history.
Read more from Brockway at his own monument to narcissism/website, The Brock Way. Follow him on Goodreads, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.