Film Review: The Girl With All The Gifts
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★★★☆☆ The Girl With All The Gifts joins the ranks of 2016 releases that portray the maturation of children kept in literal and figurative isolation. In Room, Jacob Tremblay’s Jack escapes from a shed that formed his entire world, to discover the vast complexities of the real one. The French film Mustang depicts five Turkish girls who are locked in their home after some innocent frolicking with boys lands them in trouble. This month’s Captain Fantastic is about the adjustments that a family of six children raised in the wilderness have to make when they venture out into commercial America to attend a funeral. The Girl With All The Gifts takes this idea of growth, and rebellion against seclusion, and adds the caveat “but with zombies.” Melanie (Sennia Nanua) is one of several children kept in cells within a military facility. Every day, she and the others are strapped down at gunpoint and wheeled into classes by the intimidating Sergeant Parks (Paddy Considine), taught by the lovely Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton). They’re monitored by lead scientist Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close). When the base is attacked by a horde of “hungries”, Melanie saves Miss Justineau, and together, with Dr. Caldwell, Sergeant Parks, and Privates Dillon and Gallagher (Anthony Welsh and Fisayo Akinade), they must survive the journey to safety in the south at Beacon. There are few zombie films or TV shows of the 21st century that don’t owe something to George A. Romero, yet even fewer use the zombies (as blank a canvas for metaphor as there ever was) to say interesting things. The last was 2013’s Warm Bodies. Here, the incredibly tense sequences are equally inspired by the fast moving infected of 28 Days Later, as they are Romero’s work. The opening twenty minutes at the base/research facility has the ring of Day of the Dead’s premise, and a gut-wrenchingly tense move through a shopping arcade full of dormant hungries, is the film’s own tribute to Dawn Of The Dead. But these adult zombies aren’t so much actual metaphor, as they are window dressing for the Melanie centric one, and the aforementioned action. In a year of great child performances, Sennia Nanua’s as Melanie truly stands out. From the heavy-handed opening to the lyrical ending, the film sees Melanie on an arc of discovery, of rebellion, and of simply growing up. Which proves to be quite complicated.
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