|'This is more than just a captivating revitalisation of the zombie subgenre; there is intelligence and storytelling mastery in abundance which lifts the film to the heights of truly great science fiction'.|
Recent big screen zombie offerings such as Pride And Prejudice And Zombies have potentially afforded some hope of innovation, but have ultimately come up considerably short in galvanising the subgenre in any way. It's therefore not surprising that much of the praise for The Girl With All The Gifts has centred around its ability to breathe new life into the undead on screen, if you'll excuse the ironic metaphor.
Colm McCarthy, directing a script written by M. R. Carey in tandem with his novel of the same name, offers the most captivating zombie apocalypse narrative since 28 Days Later. Moreover, that film is clearly an influence here: the 'hungries' as they are known are not the easily outpaced shufflers of Romero's era, but fast and instinctive much like Boyle's.
In that sense, The Girl With All The Gifts is not a true original, but when working in the realm of the undead is that even possible any more? Either way, what matters is how Carey finds new ways of injecting his ideas into the ravaged landscape he presents, and how McCarthy manages to uncannily bring them to life. This is more than just a captivating revitalisation of the zombie subgenre; there is intelligence and storytelling mastery in abundance which lifts the film to the heights of truly great science fiction. It's possible - nay compulsory - to reflect back on events and details from early on in the narrative, marvelling at the ingenious foreshadowing Carey undertakes whilst crafting and unfolding his tale.
McCarthy meanwhile ensures his film offers a consistently absorbing and atmospheric experience. There are a handful of sequences more ambitious in scale - the attack on the army base during the first act is superbly realised - but for much of the running time the director firmly opts for tense and intimate scenes over set pieces and jump scares. It's McCarthy's attention to detail, however, such as the unsettling clacking of the hungries' teeth, which elevates his vision to the exceptional level of authenticity he achieves.
The combined expertise of McCarthy, Carey and their talented cast mean that The Girl With All The Gifts convincingly overcomes any points which could potentially have become problematic. There are moments of exposition, but they are positioned and delivered within the narrative with such precision that they in fact elevate the film as a whole.
We also learn little about any the characters' lives prior to the events witnessed, but again this doesn't matter: Carey's script gives each actor enough to mould their member of the group into a person we both can and want to invest in. Reliable talents such as Paddy Considine and Glenn Close give comprehensively excellent performances, which makes Sennia Nanua's standout performance as Melanie all the more extraordinary. Just twelve years old at the time of shooting, Nanua's flawless feature debut here deserves to mark the young actress out for great things in the future.