James and Lily live off the grid, raising their young daughter in a cocoon of comfort and sustainability. When a mysterious mass text ripples its way across the country, triggering a crippling, apocalyptic cyber attack, their home transitions from sheltered modern oasis to a fortress for their estranged old friends that show up at their door for protection and community.
The end of the world. We’ve seen it happen so many times before, in movies like “The Day After Tomorrow”, “2012”, “Virus (1980)” and the “Mad Max” trilogy. Of course there are many more titles but for the most part, these movies are all action-oriented, to some degree. With “Goodbye World”, director Denis Hennelly incorporates elements of Lawrence Kasdan’s “The Big Chill” and blends it with the Apocalypse and we end up with a captivating drama that left me wanting more. James (Adrian Grenier) and Lily (Kerry Bishe) live off the grid in the mountains of Northern California with their young daughter Hannah (Mckenna Grace). They grow their own vegetables, employ solar power and have stock-piled canned food and medicine because James has always felt that it was only a matter of time before they would have to depend on it.
One particular weekend, a group of their friends are making their way to their house for a reunion when the nation’s power grid comes under cyber attack, shutting everything down. There is no electricity, no internet and cell phone usage and people begin to riot as the President declares martial law throughout the entire country. With their house and land self-sustaining for many years to come, things start off happily enough with old friends reacquainting themselves with each other and catching up on old times but gradually, nerves unravel, old flames reignite and tempers flare. When a rogue military unit tries to force their way into the house, the friends stand united and are able to drive them away but it’s only a matter of time before they come back.
What I really liked about “Goodbye World” was how director Denis Hennelly presented the story. He doesn’t really show you much of the nation’s disintegration, we get glimpses of video footage on one of the character’s cell phones and we hear rantings from a local radio station but other than that, we’re shown nothing else. And I loved that. Of course, in movies like “The Day After Tomorrow”, it’s a huge spectacle watching downtown Los Angeles being torn apart by tornadoes or New York City engulfed in a massive tidal wave but here, everything is presented through the power of suggestion. A quick glimpse here, a radio news bite there and that’s all. We’re given the situation and the rest of the story, the interactions between the friends, becomes the primary focus.
Of course, adopting the apocalypse as a back-story is nothing new, “28 Days Later” and its subsequent sequel used this premise to good effect as well as “Miracle Mile” and “Night of the Comet”. In these films, the apocalypse starts early on and the rest of the story centers on specific characters and their individual and sometimes collective narratives. With “Goodbye World”, we are acquainted with the lives of a group of average people who bond together and in order to survive, have to put their differences away. The acting by the cast, especially in scenes as an ensemble, was veracious and unlike other films of its ilk, never self-indulgent. I believed in these characters and what they were going through and I didn’t need spectacular special effects to remind me where I was. Highly recommended.
In theaters April 4th