The Girl With All the Gifts
dir Colm McCarthy
scr Mike Carey
prd Camille Gatin, Angus Lamont
with Gemma Arterton, Sennia Nanua, Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, Fisayo Akinade, Anamaria Marinca, Dominique Tipper, Anthony Welsh, Elise Reed, Tessa Morris, Will Brooks, Joe Lomas
release UK 23.Sep.16, US Sep.16 ff
16/UK Warners 1h51
The Girl With All the Gifts
Don't eat me: Nanua and Arterton

arterton close considine
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Girl With All the Gifts An offbeat spin on the post-apocalyptic premise, this British thriller grips the audience with strong characters and an unpredictable story. But aside from its thoughtful approach to morality, there's little to the movie beneath the entertaining surface. The especially engaging actors make it involving on an personal level, but nothing else properly resonates.

In an underground bunker, Helen (Arterton) teaches a classroom of restrained children who are treated like Hannibal Lecter by their terrified guards. Sgt Parks (Considine) has to remind Helen that these bright children are dangerous flesh-eaters, infected with a zombie-like virus that has destroyed British society. And Dr Caldwell (Close) insists that their intelligence is merely mimicry caused by the fungal disease taking over their brains. Helen's star pupil is Melanie (Nanua), and when the perimeter fence is overrun by marauding "hungries", she helps Helen escape along with Parks, Caldwell and guard Kieran (Akinade).

Director McCarthy keeps the focus on these five people as they roam across a wasted London in search of help, making freaky discoveries about the nature of the disease that has turned humanity into a ravenous horde. Yes, it's a bit like a 10-years-later sequel to 28 Days Later. What sets this apart is that the script explores the perspective of a person who's infected. This gives the movie a jolt of unexpected emotion, mainly due to the sensitive performances.

Nanua is the heart of the film, giving an open-handed turn as a clever girl who knows more than she realises. With heightened senses and dark urges, her inner battles are particularly vivid. Her connection with Helen is strong, nicely played by Arterton, who adds some military muscle to this generous teacher. Close has a more cartoonish role as a scientist whose fierce determination to complete her work is as perilous as the appetites of the infected. And Considine and Akinade are solid as the tough-but-sensitive soldiers.

The film further holds the attention with a series of plot twists and revelations, plus character interaction that's genuinely moving. Amid a series of super-tense action sequences, it's fascinating to discover more about this horrific disease and its next stages. And yet it's one of those movies that you sit back and watch. It never quite pulls the audience in, simply because there is very little depth to the situations and no bite to the themes. So it's fun while it lasts, but the filmmaking itself is all that lingers.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 15.Aug.16

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