The Zombie Apocalypse is very mainstream these days. The resurgence can be traced to Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later right though last years South Korean thriller Train to Busan not to mention Televisions The Walking Dead that is into it's 7th season. The Canadian government even debated the issue in a 2013 Question Period session. The story always starts with the same premise. A fast spreading virus effects the population quickly. The virus is spread with a bite and the victim turns into an undead entity that craves living flesh particularly brains. Each adapter puts a twist on the narrative. The abilities of the zombies differ, the name for the undead changes but there is usually a military presence and some talk of a potential cure.
When we first meet Melanie (Sennia Nanua) she is in a cell counting quietly as noisy voices shout about transport in the hallway outside. The door opens and Melanie calmly greets the armed soldiers by name as she is shackled to a wheel chair to be taken to class. There amongst other children her age the group learn mathematics and are told the occasional story that's not on the agenda. One story told by favourite teacher Ms Justineau (Gemma Arterton) is the tale of Pandora and the fate of the world after she opened her box.
Director Colm McCarthy spins a tale based on Mike Carey's script from his novel. The piece has it's own take on the undead world. Zombies are Hungries and they don't move at all unless they catch the sent of live flesh to eat. In an area with no humans they will just stand in place swaying slightly until aroused. A trait that leads to an extremely the suspenseful sequence of the film. Also in the films universe the transformation is almost instantaneous. A bit is followed by a couple of jerky head motions then one is a full hungry.
Melanie and her classmates may be the key to a cure. They were all fetus in the womb of their mothers who caught the virus and ate their way out. They appear human, are ignored by Hungries but do need to feed thus the heavy restraints during transport and while in class. Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) is the lead at the school/ base/ prison experimenting with these kids to see if a cure can be found. Her methods of testing are very intrusive to put it mildly as periodicity students dis spear from class never to return.
Newcomer Sennia Nanua shines in the title role. Her Melanie is very reminiscent of Will Smith Robert Neville in I am Legend. She could be the key to a cure if she will let Dr. Caldwell have her brain and spine. Nanua plays the very smart, polite and resourceful Melanie in the right balance even getting right the over annoying questioning that fits her character. Gemma Arterton continues a run of strong roles as Ms. Helen. She sees the test subjects as kids and not things as do the majority of her colleagues on the base. She recognizes the unique abilities of Melanie treating her different from the other students leading to constant rebuking from the soldiers and Dr. Caldwell. Look for Paddy Considine in the hard man role of Sgt. Eddie Parks. He knows these kids are "things" having been out off the base capturing them. He doe not fall for Melanie's intellect being the only person in the film that she speaks ill of.
The Girl With All The Gifts cuts a new path in the crowded Zombie landscape. It has the feel of a cross between 28 Days Later and I am Legend. The production has a different take on the nature, movement and behavior of hungries speaking of adaptations of second and future generations of the species and virus. The story is suspenseful without being gimmicky featuring a plot that unwinds at a comfortable pace making it a film I can recommend.
*** Out of 4.
The Girl With All The Gifts | Colm McCarthy | UK/USA | 2016 | 111 Minutes.
Tags: Virus, Cure, Military Base, Experiment, Children, Zombies, London, Mask, Restraints, Class.