Two corrupt cops set out to blackmail and frame every criminal unfortunate enough to cross their path. Events, however, are complicated by the arrival of someone who appears to be even more dangerous than they are.
John Michael McDonagh
Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.
In a dystopian near future, humanity has been ravaged by a mysterious fungal disease. The afflicted are robbed of all free will and turned into flesh-eating 'hungries'. Humankind's only hope is a small group of hybrid children who crave human flesh but retain the ability to think and feel. The children go to school at an army base in rural Britain, where they're subjected to cruel experiments by Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close). School teacher Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton) grows particularly close to an exceptional girl named Melanie (Sennia Nanua), thus forming a special bond. But when the base is invaded, the trio escape with the assistance of Sgt. Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine) and embark on a perilous journey of survival, during which Melanie must come to terms with who she is.
The film opens with Melanie, a very polite young girl, strapping herself into a wheelchair at gunpoint. She and many other children are wheeled off to a makeshift classroom where they're taught the periodic table and Greek mythology, before they're each returned to their individual cells. Melanie also gets little logic problems from one of the doctors. She's treated with fear, curiosity, and love from various different military personel. It's not long before her curiosity gets the better of her and she finds herself topside in a military base surrounded by hungry hordes, strapped to an examination table. Who she is, why she's important, and why she's treated the way she is is left mysterious for quite some time.
The zombies themselves take a leaf out of The Last of Us. They're caused by a fungal infection that completely takes over the brain and replaces it with the insatiable need to eat. Their primary sense is smell, allowing the soldiers to mask themselves with a blocking gel and enabling them to carefully navigate through the hordes without being detected. Being a fungal infection though, there's more than just one stage, and the next stage holds the potential for the end of humanity. As zombie concepts go, this one is certainly one of the creepiest, and actually has a precedent in nature as well.
I was hugely surprised by the visual sufficiency of The Girl with All the Gifts. I figured it would just be another low-budget English production. Okay, that's exactly what it is, but it doesn't mean they scrimped out on the film's visual quality. The CGI present is subtle and sparingly used, preferring to use and merge in-camera footage instead. The apocalyptic landscape on display is one of the most convincing apocalyptic landscapes I've seen, created by putting the overgrown scenery of Chernobyl across London's skyline. It's obviously been a number of years since the initial outbreak, so the city is overrun with trees and shrubbery. The cinematography is great as well though, with some inspiring imagery created with interesting uses of composition and lighting. I wouldn't go so far as to say it looks particularly artistic, but it certainly has a good go at it. For such a bleak story in such a bleak setting, the movie looks really good (in such a bleak kind of way).
The music as well goes a long way to setting the scene, driven by haunting theremins as they swell and slide, backed by a simplistic orchestral arrangement. It's unlike any soundtrack I've heard before, but fits the movie so well. I was actually disappointed that I couldn't find it to listen to while I wrote this review. It knows when it be unsettling and when to be emotional, and at times even uses what you wouldn't expect to give a different angle to the scene in question.
The Girl with All the Gifts is a solid movie in it's own right, but it stands amongst the very best zombie movies. It certainly gives 28 Days Later... a run for its money, both in it's use of it's low- budget and it's re-invention of the zombie trope. It's another fresh new take on a genre perpetually at risk of going stale, but finding itself constantly injected with more creativity and imagination. I give The Girl with All the Gifts a solid 8/10, and would absolutely recommend it.
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