Smith is supreme in one-man show
I Am Legend Science fiction
One of Hollywood's most talkative stars, Will Smith spends most of his time in I Am Legend talking to a dog, or warding off nocturnal mutants who howl rather than speak.
That means the science-fiction horror movie, adapted from Richard Matheson's 1954 novel of the same name, is a movie nearly devoid of dialogue.
Most scenes are eerily quiet, conveying a deep sense of solitude and isolation as Smith, who plays virologist Robert Neville, wanders along the streets of a deserted New York City.
Few Christmas movies are as dark and disturbing as I Am Legend, which tells the story of a man-made virus which wipes out most of the world's population and turns the rest into nocturnal, cannibalistic zombies (they are vampires in Matheson's novel).
Neville, the sole survivor in New York City, searches for food during the day and hides from the zombies at night in his laboratory, conducting experiments to find a cure for the virus.
Despite its zombie premise, the movie - directed by Francis Lawrence, an MTV director who got his first big break two years ago with Constantine - veers away from the cliches of the genre. The story is turned into a character-driven drama and a look at the nature of human existence.
Even the action sequences, which are usually the highlight of the genre, are designed to shock rather than entertain. Brief and brutal, their purpose is to reinforce the desperation of the character, who, unlike the usual gun-toting hero in zombie movies, seems increasingly crazy due to his solitary and vulnerable situation.
Smith delivers perhaps his best performance to date, turning the movie into a one-man show which is terrifying one moment and touching the next. The scene in which an emotionally-shattered Neville is forced to strangle his dog is especially painful.
The ending is not a happy one, but it conveys hope for the future. I Am Legend is one of the most absorbing movies of the year.
I Am Legend is now showing