Title: The Girl With all the Gifts
HTS Overall Score:
It’s very rare that I find a film that completely refreshes a dying genre. Or at least adds a fresh take on a STALE genre, which is what the zombie apocalypse genre has fallen into. I know “The Walking Dead” is still going strong, but zombies are finally going the way of vampires and werewolves. Receding back to a state of sleep while the next great (or old great) genre trope gets it’s time in the limelight due to market saturation. However, there are still a few unique films out there and “The Girl With all the Gifts” is one of them. I had heard great things about Mike Carey’s post-apocalyptic zombie novel but hadn’t been able to read it just yet, and when I heard that it was being made into a movie I made a mental note that I NEEDED to check it out. Well, it’s here, and I have, and I must say that “The Girl With all the Gifts” is a FANTSASTIC film with just a few flaws that keep it from being 100% amazing.
We all know the basic premise of the zombie outbreak. It doesn’t matter the EXACT cause, but it’s usually some pathogen that infects someone and turns them into mindless zombies who feed on human flesh. Sometimes they’re slow, sometimes they’re fast, sometimes they feed on brains, sometimes it’s just a hunger for living humans, etc etc etc. This time it’s a strange fungal infection (unexplained, but not a necessity for the plot) that has taken over the human race. As the fungus mutates and changes the people it seemingly controls their actions, turning once living humans into automatons who just want to munch on our lovely fleshy bodies. Well, humanity is now at a critical point in their existence. The remaining people have cordoned themselves into little camps (ala “The Walking Dead” prison) where they fend off hordes of mindless monsters while they try and survive and find a cure.
The thing is, we actually don’t KNOW that’s what’s going on at first. The film is very subversive in how it lets us know information for the first 30 minutes. All we see are these children who are treated as “things”. Strapped to chairs and held at gunpoint we see one young girl named Melanie (newcomer Sennia Nanua) as the focal point of this treatment. She is locked in her cell, treated like a dangerous monster, and then put back in her cell. However, Melanie has a seemingly positive outlook on life, viewing those around her as friends, especially her teacher Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton). Slowly we get fed pieces of information that allow us to understand the full gravity of the situation and just WHAT Melanie is. It seems that while everyone who was human turned into a zombie, those who were BORN to infected hosts (usually pregnant people who got infected that way) are kind of immune to all of the effects. They can function as living beings but can be “triggered” into a sort of blood lust when they smell human flesh (thus the humans use a scent blocking cream that once covered in it makes them invisible to the hunger centers of the zombie brains).
Doctor Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) is close to a cure, and THAT’s where these caged children come in. It seems that she is THIS close to synthesizing a vaccine, but to do so she needs the organs and dissection of these “children”. As it’s Melanie’s turn to go under the knife a zombie horde storms the base and sends Miss Justineau, Dr. Caldwell and Sgt Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine) into full escape mode along with Dr. Caldwell’s “test subject”, Melanie. Now the remaining humans have to find a way to survive and hopefully end this plague once and for all.
While I’ve had to spoil some of the initial plot points in the review out of necessity, there are quite a few twists and turns along the way (including a twist near the end that really makes you sit back and pay attention) to keep you fully engaged in the story. The idea of a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland is nothing new. Hey, even “Resident Evil” is still pumping out that regurgitated plot point years and years after its inception. However, it’s the execution of the movie that really makes it unique. We’re allowed to focus in and bond with Melanie more than anything else. We see what she is, and we see how she is more than the others, but allowing the viewer to see the sweet, seemingly human, side of her allows the story to really flush out all of the tropes and stare in complete fascination with what is going on.
There’s some silly “zombie world’ logic that makes you want to bang you head against the wall (this is why the movie isn’t rated higher), but these small leaps of logic and “what are you doing!?” portions of the movie get glossed over quite quickly due to the performance of Sinnia Nanua. Mark my words, this girl is going somewhere, and if she doesn’t it’s not for her lack of acting skills. Child actors are usually the weak spot of a movie, but the 14-year-old actress is the single best part of the entire movie. You can’t take your eyes off of her and she gives a near flawless performance. Gemma Arterton and Glenn Close are solid performers as well, and I REALLY liked Paddy’s character, but It’s the little girl that just steals the movie.
Rated R for disturbing violence/bloody images, and for language
The movie comes from Lionsgate with a rather unusual aspect ratio of 2.00:1 (not very common AT ALL), but it’s something that blends into the background as it’s closer to 1.85:1 than you’d think. I can’t find any information about the cameras used for the filming process, but it appears digital in nature and very clean and sharp. There’s a sort of light green filter that, coupled with some desaturated and flat coloring, gives a very bleak look to the movie. Primaries are usually the blood on Melanie’s face, or the splash of green from foliage most of the movie. Blacks are distinctly clear of any crush or washed out levels, but some banding does occur from time to time. There’s a few opening scenes of the film that look a bit soft (they seem a bit altered or processed), but once they get out of the complex the fine detail is exquisite, from the dried blood on Melanie’s face to the little bits of dirt under her fingernails.
Lionsgate’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is more than capable of handling the zombie apocalypse, giving us a confined and tightly restrained track while inside the base, but opening up to a more natural and spacious feel ounce the group is one the road. The track is mixed a little hotly, with the DB range having me turn down my receiver from the usual -30, to -35. Bass is intense and present throughout the entire movie, and the dialog is still crystal clear (despite some British accents giving me pause here and there). The surrounds get a lot of activity with the wide-open spaces having rushing wind flow through the sides, and the snap of a twig in the forest coming from a single position with pinpoint accuracy.
• Unwrap the Secret World of The Girl With All the Gifts
I REALLY liked “The Girl With all the Gifts”. It was shockingly refreshing for a zombie movie and has an incredible ability to pull you in and actually FEEL something (which is quite rare in the genre). There are some flaws, and the pacing is slowed down after the group leaves the base, but the uniqueness and twists that are woven into the story more than makes up for these flaws. Lionsgate puts out some great specs for the Indie film, but the one weak spot is a notable lack of any major extras (besides one 20 minute EPK). Not a flawless movie, but a well done one, “The Girl With all the Gifts” is one of my highly recommended movies of the year.
Starring: Sennia Nanua, Gemma Arterton, Dominique Tipper, Glenn Close
Directed by: Colm McCarthy
Written by: Mike Carey (both novel and screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 111 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 18th 2017
Buy The Girl With all the Gifts On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
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