The Last of Us by Neil Druckmann & Craig Mazin [9/10]

Anyone I know who has played the computer game The Last of Us is, it seems, a rabid, fan, so “The Last of Us,” a nine-part screen series, is a gamble. Brought to HBO by the game’s creator, Neil Druckmann, in partnership with Craig Mazin, the genius behind Chernobyl, and co-rewritten by the pair of them, the resultant show is a triumph. Calling it a zombie flick demeans it, for even though it is set in a dystopian world almost destroyed by zombies infected by a fungus, it is primarily a tale of adventure and hope. When fourteen-year-old, perky orphan Ellie is handed to tough guy Joel to be transported across a blighted, fraught America, it is not clear whether either will survive a single episode, nor what the eventual destination might deliver. Battling zombies, militias, the military, cults, and other horrors, the two of them become epic symbols of hope for humanity, even though both are flawed and reluctant. Pedro Pascal is brilliant as Joel and Bella Ramsey is unforgettable as Ellie, and the rest of the cast is pitch-perfect. The movie’s sets and scenery are spellbinding in their detail and imaginativeness. The action scenes could be watched again and again, so stirring are they. That the blighted world of The Last of Us is the result of a pandemic underscores the resonant depth of the storyline plotted out by triumphant Mazin. A highlight of 2023, without a doubt.

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