Patient Zero Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky
Written by Mike Le
2018, 93 minutes, Rated R
Released on September 14th, 2018
Starring:Natalie Dormer as Dr. Gina Rose
Matt Smith as Morgan
Stanley Tucci as The Professor
Clive Standen as Knox
John Bradley as Scooter
Agyness Deyn as Janet
We humans do love to wax poetic about the apocalypse, don’t we? The end of the world as we know it has a draw that we just can’t refuse, especially in this day and age when half of us fear it’s right around the corner and the other half are pulling for it (I’m still waiting for my own personal version of The Walking Dead, but that’s a story for another day). In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for the silver screen take of what the end looks like and hope it has something to say. Fortunately, Patient Zero does have a position to take and a talented cast to support it.
Dr. Gina Rose (Natalie Dormer, Game of Thrones) is the face of science’s last hope in the aftermath of a virulent strain of rabies, a.k.a. “Mad Dog Disease”, that has wiped out 99% of the world’s population. Morgan (Matt Smith, Doctor Who) is her instrument of research- he’s been infected but somehow didn’t turn. As a result, he can speak to The Infected, whom they study with the aid of the military and Colonel Knox (Clive Standen, The History Channel’s Vikings). Time is running out in the overpopulated research facility/shelter, housed in an old missile silo, and patience is wearing thin. The appearance of a new kind of Infected, The Professor (Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones), raises alarming questions and pushes mankind forward in a dark new direction.
Patient Zero won’t knock your socks off with originality of concept or a new direction. In fact, it’s heavily derivative of 28 Weeks Later and Day of the Dead to the point of borderline plagiarism. It’s not simply a matter of following the Beat Sheet, it’s as if write Mike Le couldn’t find any beats of his own. There’s a fine line between homage and rip-off that Patient Zero walks.
However, that’s not to say that there is nothing to like. There’s a solid cast assembled with two Game of Thrones alums, a Doctor of the Who variety, a traitorous Viking, and Stanley Tucci! The assembled star power is enough to pique your interest (depending on your fandom). The performances range from studious (Dormer) to overdone (Standen) to comedically brilliant (Bradley). Did I mention there’s also STANLEY TUCCI?! You literally cannot complain about that. Your argument is invalid.
It’s from Patient Zero’s most compellingly written character and talented actor that the meat of the story emanates. Before Mad Dog Disease caused him to rip his wife limb from limb, The Professor was (you guessed it) a college professor. He tells his class (in a Medieval Philosophy lecture) that Saint Augustine said that “…man must love because he is incomplete. Loving is an act of good, a human ability granted as a gift from a higher power.” Sure, they all tear each other apart shortly after, but you’ve been given the moral of the story. The Mad Dog Professor now believes that the virus is rage and it’s always been inside of us, waiting to be activated by the sheer ugliness of the age we live in. Thus, he believes we have been cleansed by it (an homage to Anthony Zerbe’s awesome Matthias character in The Omega Man). Morgan is determined to do his part to prove that man deserves to carry on and save his wife in the process.
The writing beats are derivative, but the spirit is philosophical and brings weight to the table. Easy answers aren’t to be found, but you’re left with a question in your heart…if you can see past all the other stuff that’s been done a million times before. Patient Zero isn’t original in many ways, but it has a yearning spirit that should make you think. That elevates it above the familiar trappings glaring from so many places throughout.
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