Zombie-like infection is central to this dystopian British thriller. ‘The Girl With All The Gifts‘ follows Melanie (Sennia Nanua) a young girl who has been found to be immune to an infection which has taken over the outside world. She is made to travel alongside Dr Caldwell (Glenn Close) and teacher Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton) who are at odds over deciding her fate. Meanwhile, Sergeant Parks (Paddy Considine) and soldier Kieran Gallagher (Fisayo Akinade) attempt to locate other survivors whilst they all fend off the infected “hungries”.
The whole cast provide stellar performances. They are convincing as military personnel in the midst of a horrific series of events. Nanua in the central role is accomplished. It’s difficult to believe that this is her debut. Considine is terrific as the demanding Sgt, playing up to the meat-headed mentality, but never forcing a too clichéd role, his anger being very real.
Colm McCarthy directs, following his work in television on series such as ‘Peaky Blinders‘. Though there obvious distinctions to be made, he pulls off his first cinematic feature with all of the merits of years on the screen. It doesn’t feel like a television production though; the narrative is fast paced, the characterisation is more sharp, and the cinematography combined with the CG effects provide impressive visuals.
The film is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Mike Carey, who also pens the screenplay. It is clear as early as the establishing scenes that Carey knows how to structure a story. The dialogue feels natural, and there are one or two moments of dark humour to lift the otherwise harsh tone.
Cristo Tapia de Veer‘s score is fantastic. You might recognise the textures too, they are very similar to Channel 4’s ‘Utopia’ soundtrack (another excellent Cristo work). When ‘Girl with all the Gifts‘ has titles like ‘28 Days Later‘ referenced in shorthand comparison in the press, it has to work hard on every single element to live up to that set of expectations. Music is very much a part of that, and here we get a score that shapes the film in an original way.
Later in the film, as the characters walk on desolate post-apocalyptic English high streets, they walk past recognisable shops such as Next, Pret a Manger, etc. It has been a trope of many zombie films to be set in a shopping centre, or have at least some of the action take place near such consumer havens. Obvious to some, it flags a dependency on shopping environments in a capitalist society. Sometimes this can feel overbearing, and too much to complete the backdrop to an entire work. Luckily, here the nods are mostly incidental to the main narrative structure, and are interesting considerations where present.
Surely this will be on the top ten films of the year for a lot of people, and it would be a deserved choice. Dare I say it, it’s a fresh take on the British zombie horror genre, with a difficult narrative to navigate, yet an accessible route in. The performances are first class, and captured with a keen eye for detail. It’s ace.
[rating=5] | Zach Roddis
Horror, Drama | UK, 2016 |15| Warner Bros. | 23rd September 2016 (UK) | Dir.Colm McCarthy |Sennia Nanua, Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close, Paddy Considine,Fisayo Akinade