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‘The Girl With All the Gifts’ (review)

mv5bmjq0nza4ndcxm15bml5banbnxkftztgwmtk1njuzote-_v1_uy1200_cr9206301200_al_Produced by Will Clarke,
Camille Gatin, Angus Lamont

Written by M.R. Carey, based on his book
Directed by Colm McCarthy
Starring Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine,
Glenn Close, Sennia Nanua, Fisayo Akinade

 

The striking imagery of the poster — a little girl with a bloodied mouth wearing a clear plastic mask — promises a refreshing original take on the zombie film, which this film delivers… until the third act.

Newcomer Sennia Nanua stars as Melanie, one of several children who are treated like prisoners and only let out of their cells under armed escort by very nervous soldiers.

And yet Melanie is a bright, cheerful child who greets her escorts by name each morning and loves her idealistic teacher, Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton).

We learn that these children are the next generation of zombies who appear to be fully human, until they catch the scent of real humans and transform into wild-eyed, ravenous predators. (The non-infected humans use a gel scent-blocker, which Rick Grimes would surely love to have.)

Miss Justineau is the only one who believes there’s more humanity than monster in these children, especially her favorite, Melanie. She’s at odds with Glenn Close, who plays the scientist who wants to find a zombie vaccine and Paddy Considine, the tough sergeant who treats these zombie children with the same elaborate caution you would a pack of rabid dogs. The small group is forced to work together after their base falls to the zombie horde and Melanie proves surprisingly helpful — if they can just trust her not to eat them.

The film delivers some terrific zombie attack scenes and an interesting new cause for the outbreak: It’s a nasty fungus that’s making these people want to eat brains!

The way the film plays with our ideas about what makes us human is smart. But some unfortunate choices cross the line into cheesy sci-fi clichés.

And it’s too bad the metaphor of Pandora’s Box becomes not just a recurring theme, but an unavoidable endpoint. The movie tries to have it both ways with an ending that’s apocalyptic and yet strangely upbeat.

The ending didn’t ruin the movie for me, but it did bring my rating down a few notches.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Girl With All the Gifts is currently playing in the UK.

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