The film begins set in, what looks like, an underground bunker with children in orange jump suits, strapped into wheelchairs. There is something unique with these kids, as they have photographic memories or something, but none of them are as gifted as the title girl with all those gifts- Melanie (Sennia Nanua). She counts to herself in her prison cell, greeting every military guard politely with their name and a smile. Each day, the children are lined up in a classroom setting. Their teacher- Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton) asks them to write a story and Melanie’s tale brings a smile to Miss Justineau's face, even prompting her to place her hand on her head. Sgt. Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine) intervenes and reveals why getting close to these gifted kids is a mistake. A students jaw twitches, thrashes, attempting to bite his arm. These kids have a dormant zombie disease inside them.
As most zombie films go, a lot rides on how the movie displays the chaos and destruction, and that is one of the coolest things about this film. Director Colm McCarthy keeps us in the bunker till large blasts strike the building, and the big reveal outside is shot in a style that reminded me of madness in The Revenant. This is also not just a standard outbreak film, it is more about survival, as Dr. Caroline Caldwell (an outstanding- Glenn Close) views Melanie as a cure, and the collective group that is left to protect her find themselves combing the streets looking for a place to hide.
There is also an interesting pacing in The Girl with All the Gifts. The first half is like gangbusters, building up and hitting fast. Then when we settle into a calming state, where the fear is from a stillness, including a scene that looks like the largest mannequin challenge ever done. The zombies, when asleep, do so in a standing, comatose state, but if they are woken up, well, our heroes won't have much time to live.
The script from Mike Carey is saying a lot of things about science and social matters. There is a back and forth battle between Dr. Caldwell and Ms. Justineau about whether the girl should be experimented on, to use as a cure, or nurtured for the kind & growing genius child that she is. Meanwhile, the infection that has existed inside of humans is also burrowing it's way into the planet and could not just be dormant inside of a human, but also become airborne. If that were to happen...end of humanity.
There are a lot of things to love about The Girl with All the Gifts. It has many of the great elements that Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later and George Romero's Day of the Dead had. The cast is a strong collective group, with solid work from Paddy Considine and excellent work from Glenn Close. Although her performance will be completely forgotten for the next Oscars, her work is Best Supporting Actress award worthy. It's just one of the many highlights as to why The Girl with All the Gifts is one of the special movies to see this year.
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS
STARRING: GEMMA ARTERTON; SENNIA NANUA; GLEN CLOSE; PADDY CONSIDINE
DIRECTED BY: COLM MCCARTHY
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
These days, with The Walking Dead at the end of it's pop culture boom and zombie movies being standard genre flicks that are a part of the cinematic norm, a movie needs to be very precise in getting the flesh eating creatures right. In director Colm McCarthy's newest film- The Girl with All the Gifts, he has made a zombie movie that feels entirely unique in it's own way, making themes of science, freedom of choice, and nature vs. nurture as the main focal point of a group of people surviving a zombie outbreak. The Girl with All the Gifts has all of the necessary attributes to be one of the better movies to feature flesh eaters in the last 5 years.