Blu-ray Review: “Parts Per Billion” Is A Muddled Affair

ppb

Review by James McDonald

The story of three couples dealing with a reality-shaking event that threatens to tear them apart.

There have been so many ‘end of the world’ movies that it’s sometimes hard to keep up. There have been entertaining action movies: “2012”, “The Day After Tomorrow”; funny movies: “This Is The End”, “Zombieland” and scary movies: “The Day After”, “Virus” and “Contagion”. With “Parts Per Billion”, we have a new category: the boring end of the world movie. I understand what director Brian Horiuchi was aiming for: with most of the entire planet now just a baron wasteland, can true love survive? What if the sole survivors of this holocaust were all couples, young and old, would they be able to spend the rest of their days, no matter how long or short, loving each other? I hadn’t seen this particular approach done before and while it was an interesting one, sadly, the final outcome came nowhere near the greatness that could have been achieved.

The film starts off with a man-made biological outbreak in the middle east. Initially, the powers-that-be are quick to state that the airborne pathogen has been contained and that there will be no further surges but gradually, cities across the middle east, Asia and Europe are succumbing to a mystery disease which gradually makes its way to Canada and the U.S. Before we know it, most of the world is dead, with only a handful of people left alive. We have an elderly couple, Andy and Esther (Frank Langella & Gena Rowlands), and two younger couples, Len and Mia (Josh Hartnett & Rosario Dawson) and Erik and Anna (Penn Badgley & Teresa Palmer). Given that these are the only shown survivors, we are led to believe that they are what’s left of the human race.

Technically, one would imagine that there would have to be more people left alive throughout the world but we never see them and instead, we concentrate on the three couples at hand. For the duration of the movie, we see flashbacks to each couple’s lives before the epidemic but their lives were no better off than they are now. Each relationship seemed to be at its end, with Len and Mia on the verge of a divorce and Erik and Anna on the threshold of separating because of her insecurities and his excessive flirting with ex-girlfriends. We find out that Andy and Esther were not doing well either because as fate would have it, Andy is the scientist who sold his research to a company in the middle east many years ago for millions of dollars and now, that same company is being blamed for the worldwide catastrophic pandemic.

There is a very talented cast at work throughout the movie. Josh Hartnett and Rosario Dawson are always dependable as is Frank Langella and Gena Rowlands and all four do commendable jobs here. Penn Badgley and Teresa Palmer play the youngest couple and while they do good with the material given to them, unfortunately, for most of their screen time, they come across as immature and very inept at dealing with each others feelings, let alone their own. Maybe this is what the filmmakers intended, to show that even with the world dying around them, they still couldn’t make their relationship work but in the end, if you want us to care about them, at least make them likable, not the conceited, obnoxious characters we received. The opening of the movie, with news reels of people dying in the streets in the thousands and terror engulfing those who had not yet fallen victim to the mystery illness, was genuinely scary. It’s just a pity that the story couldn’t keep that level of enthusiasm and attentiveness for the remainder of the movie.

In stores June 4th

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James McDonald
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