If when you first heard about The Girl With All the Gifts you thought, not another zombie movie, that’s completely understandable. Because we had the exact same reaction too. But there’s so much to Colm McCarthy’s second feature film, as the esteemed TV director adapts Mike Carey’s popular novel to bring about a pertinent, harrowing picture, that thrives more so in the humanity than it does in the supernatural.
Set in a dystopian future, where zombies roam the streets, and the majority of mankind has been wiped out from a deadly fungal infection, many survivors live at an isolated research facility. Scientists, such as Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close), study infected children to attempt to uncover a cure – and one of which, Melanie (Sennia Nanua) seems to be the leading case study. The girl shows signs of intelligence, diligence and empathy, and as such, forms an affiliation with her compassionate teacher Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton) – to an extent where the latter is reluctant to allow her to be tested on. But then the collective, protected by Sgt Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine) find themselves away from their base and on the run, keeping Melanie alive is suddenly the most important objective.
The performances from Close, Arterton and Considine ensure this film transcends the tropes of the genre its placed within, to make for a strikingly relatable affair, studiously examining the interaction between our protagonists, in a film primarily about the human condition, portraying us as a flawed race. Narratively there are similarities to the immensely popular video game The Last of Us, and fans of that phenomenon are sure to find plenty to admire about this production, thriving in a similar capacity. That being said, the second act is no match to the first, and while the set-up is breathtaking, the pay-off less so, for the film becomes frustratingly tedious and generic as we approach the latter stages, as this feature that revelled so heavily in innovation becomes an archetypal survival flick by the close of play.
The one consistent, however, is the indelible tone and atmosphere, informed by Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s unforgettable score. Which makes for a film that, on the surface appears to be like so many that came before it, and yet is actually unlike anything you’ll have seen before.