The Girl With All The Gifts - This Hungries Movie Rocks The Zombies Genre
Dir: Colm McCarthy
Starring Gemma Arterton, Sennia Nanua, Glenn Close, Paddy Considine
OK, so first off – we’re not supposed to call them “zombies” – they’re hungries.” That said – this is the best zombie movie since 28 Days Later. Taking the best elements of Danny Boyle’s modern classic, mixing and matching them with elements that evoke both The Walking Dead (obvious), and old-school Star Trek (less obvious), McCarthy and co have fashioned something both original and invigorating here.
It starts with a group of kids imprisoned in their wheelchairs, in Guantanamo style orange jumpsuits and monitored by a strict military element. Within here we meet teacher Arterton and her prize pupil Melanie (Nanua) and discover that these kids are the next generation of the hungries who have more or less taken over Britain in the near future. (Who knows, maybe the rest of the world is fine. Maybe the UK just got abandoned when the whole Brexit thing happened, and this is just a physical manifestation of everything that was wrong with that decision? Tell yourself that isn’t possible…)
Pretty soon, we learn everyone is in an underground bunker, but when the hungries find their way in, Melanie and teacher are on the run, alongside Paddy Considine’s at-first heartless soldier, and Glenn Close’s scientist with a plan. As they reach the outskirts of London, we begin to realise her plan may not be enough…
The Girl With All The Gifts (a reference to Pandora and that box of hers) is a fiercely smart genre movie, that seeks not only to acknowledge the best tropes of such, but to build on them, subvert and expand them. It is a low budget British gem, full of invention and blessed with really strong performances, none more so than that of the brilliant newcomer Nanua, who completely nails the complexity of challenged-in-just-about–every-way Melanie, moving from her intelligence to her unwanted brutality to her openness to her vulnerability with the drop of a dead cat (she eats one – it provides a cool laugh later.)
In its final act, The Girl…goes all Lord of the Flies, but also appears to be echoing the once-banned old school Star Trek episode “Miri”, as the film fully develops its overriding themes of both nature will out, and the inevitability of evolution.
It is tense as nails being bitten in certain moments, heartfelt and human (despite some of the participants) at others. Always clever, always genuinely involving. The Girl may well have many Gifts. The film has a good few of its own. (Including a terrific score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer.)
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