In a genre everybody knows inside out, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. But The Girl with all the Gifts manipulates the tropes of its predecessors, adds a huge dose of original thinking and an intriguing alternative approach to zombie movies to create a fantastic and thought-provoking film.
Yes, a thought-provoking zombie movie. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? Zombie movies are action, horror and gore, they’re certainly not philosophical, nor do they address deep issues of ethics. And yet The Girl with all the Gifts pulls off this on-paper-odd combination perfectly, moving beyond the realms of what films, TV shows and video games have revisited time and again, creating something new and unique.
The eponymous girl is a child named Melanie, played brilliantly by Sennia Nanua, who lives in a prison cell and is only allowed out whilst she is strapped into a chair at gunpoint and wheeled to her lessons. But she’s not the only one – the likeable Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton) teaches a whole class full of restrained pupils within the concrete walls of a military base. As is evident from the trailer, Melanie and her classmates are zombies. Already this film diverges from the typical representation of a zombie apocalypse, and it continues to do so excellently.
In comparison to her classmates, something about Melanie is noticeably different. She is highly intelligent, and appears to be able to contain her murderous urges to some extent. But Melanie has never known another life, and has no idea of what goes on outside these walls. After the initial introduction, things change quickly, and we are thrown into the world outside the base just as Melanie is. We view the world from her perspective, learning about post-apocalyptic England and London as she does – and it is a very well-designed world.
What’s brilliant about this film is its new take on the world post-zombie apocalypse. It does not revisit overdone tropes such as a detailed explanation of the outbreak of the zombie-causing pathogen, nor does it constantly show main characters being infected and turning. Each death is different, and as such the film does not appear repetitive.
There are also interesting new innovations introduced into this world (most of which are spoilers so I will not detail them here), and the result of this is an intriguing and inventive take on the zombie movie genre.
The acting is brilliant, the intense music focuses the attention superbly, and the visual creation of post-apocalyptic London is amazing. But it is the storyline that is most praiseworthy, and it is what makes The Girl with all the Gifts so remarkable.
Another stand-out feature of this film is the striking realism so commonplace in many British-made films. Once the audience has accepted the initial premise of the film there are aspects of the story, such as the realistic psychological portrayal of children and adults alike, or the clear moments of sudden understanding in the characters, that add a sense of reality to a world so far removed from our own. This is where the thought-provoking element of the story comes in, and it is carried through successfully to its dramatic ending.
This film is incredibly original and brutally honest for a zombie movie, and transcends that genre to become something much more interesting.
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