Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close, Sennia Nanua, Anamaria Marinca, Fisayo Akinade, Anthony Welsh, Dominique Tipper
Written by: Mike Carey, based on his novel
Directed by: Colm McCarthy
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violence/bloody images, and for language
Running Time: 111
Date: 02/24/2017

The Girl with All the Gifts (2017)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Undead Girl

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With a glut of zombie movies on the market, this one, based on a novel by Mike Carey, at least tinkers with some fresh ideas, and, like the best zombie movies, its strengths are based on human themes.

In The Girl with All the Gifts, the zombie apocalypse has come from a kind of fungus, and scientist Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) is confident she can find a cure. This is partly because certain children, who are infected, can still think and operate as humans, even though they hunger for flesh and blood. Young Melanie (Sennia Nanua) seems to be the smartest and most promising of the children, and certainly her teacher Helen (Gemma Arterton) thinks so.

When their compound is breached and overrun by zombies (called "hungries"), they escape, accompanied by Sgt. Parks (Paddy Considine) and soldier Kieran (Fisayo Akinade), seeking safety and shelter. Unfortunately, Melanie discovers that the still-hoped-for cure will come at the cost of her life.

Director Colm McCarthy (a veteran of TV's Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Peaky Blinders) conjures up some strong visuals, from the miserable, prison-like interiors that begin the film, to the lush, green, overgrown city streets in the second half, "hungries" lurking everywhere.

Sennia Nanua's Melanie is the key; even as she is forced to wear a plastic mask, or satisfies her hunger with a stray cat, dribbling blood down her front, she is polite and wise in dealing with the grownups. The movie asks whether she is a monster, or whether she is the future? Which group shall be sacrificed so that the other can live? It's not an easy question.

Though the movie frequently stoops to bursts of all-too-ordinary horror violence, it's still satisfyingly focused on its concept of progress, both constructive and destructive.

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