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I Am Legend

The Last Man On Earth is Not Alone. 

Year: 2007 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from I Am Legend

Director: Francis Lawrence

Starring: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan

The post-apocalyptic metropolis is introduced with a distinct lack of thriving city noises: no cars, no horns, no yelling - just birds. Times Square is a meadow; ivy twining its way up the walls of quarantined buildings. Most notably, bridges connecting Manhattan to the surrounding boroughs, are destroyed.

All is explained through fragmented flashbacks, as Military Scientist Robert Neville (Will Smith), a lone figure in this 2012 Manhattan, reminisces back to events of the previous decade. A genetically engineered cure for cancer took a disastrous turn, accidentally creating the virus, ‘KV’. KV’s spread to humans and its progression into an airborne contagion led to the quarantine of Manhattan. Neville rushes to evacuate his wife (Salli Richardson) and daughter (Willow Smith, Will Smith's daughter) alongside other healthy fleeing New Yorkers, though heroically chooses to stay behind in order to work on a cure for ‘the infected’.

In ominous isolation, bar his lovable and loyal Alsatian Samantha, Neville develops immunity to the virus and spends his days experimenting on rats and occasionally on the infected. By night, Neville hides from ‘the infected’ whose symptoms include a penchant for live flesh and a severe phobia of the light. This ensures that our primal fear of the dark is cinematically exploited as the dark seekers go-a-hunting.

The diminishing feeling of hope is the film's main strength, followed by the sense of solitude conveyed to heart-wrenching depths by the naturally charismatic Will Smith. Despite the dramatic, CGI-enhanced visuals and plot details ‘I am Legend’ is a very stark affair- for much of the film Smith is featured alone. That is, until two other apparently healthy humans, Anna (Alice Braga) and Ethan (Charlie Tahan), appear.

The survival story is well told, in terms of the physical and psychological demands. It is powerful, even if it does cover similar territory to other last-remnants-of-humanity films. The film is only let down by a rather hurried final act which arguably echoes religious sacrifice. But, however sudden the shift in tone is, it successfully fits a film reflecting the post-9/11 age, where faith and violence are commingled.

Cynthia Ebo

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Screenings of this film:

2007/2008 Summer Term (35mm)
2007/2008 Summer Term (35mm)