I Am Legend (2007)

Starring: Will Smith, Anna Braga, Emma Thompson, Abby

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

Rating: 1 2 3 4 and a half

Will Smith and furry friend in I Am Legend

If there's only going to be one man left alive, it may as well be Will Smith, aka Dr Robert Neville, the Fresh Prince of Virology.

When a genetically mutated virus designed to cure cancer infects ninety per cent of the population, turning them into rabid vampiric monsters who eat the remaining ten per cent, he alone in New York City remains immune. Holed up in his house on Washington Square, he and his Alsatian dog Sam spend their days scavenging for food, radioing out to other survivors and working on a cure for the virus in an underground lab. With a military background and a medical degree (not to mention pecs of steel) he's a handy bloke to have around in a crisis – just as well he survived, really. But as the Big Apple's virulent packs of cannibalistic zombies become ever more cunning, desperate, agile and hungry, it looks as if his days could be numbered…

I won't give away any more of the plot, because I really don't want to spoil this fantastic, gripping and emotionally involving film. From the dramatically eerie opening scene, as we watch Neville hunt a pack of deer through an overgrown Time Square, only to have his prey snatched away by a lion, I was utterly hooked, and was quite prepared to suspend disbelief and accept the occasional hole in the scenario (such as how come Neville's house has electricity and the zombies haven't starved to death).

Will Smith is not alone in I Am Legend

But while it may bear all the hallmarks of a blockbuster bonanza (big star, big budget, big ideas), I Am Legend actually has more in common with smaller, independent features like Right At Your Door and Mulberry Street than apocalyptic box office smashers like Independence Day. In the end, while you don't get a bigger subject than the end of the world, this is a character-driven film that focuses on one man's struggle for survival, and, like Cast Away, it stands on the strength of its central protagonist's performance.

And what a performance it is: for despite Dr Robert Neville's evident superiority to, well, anyone in the cinema last night for starters, Will Smith's committed and emotional performance pulls all the right strings, making us laugh in cry in equal measure (okay, cry more than laugh) and root most sincerely for this above average Average Joe who's somehow set himself the task of saving humanity.

Mixing elements of a class horror movie (think Alien meets 28 Days Later) with gripping thriller tactics, this film is guaranteed to have you either on the edge of your seat or (at least for the big wuss next to me) hiding behind it.

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