The Dead Don’t Die

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

The Dead Don't Die
dir-scr Jim Jarmusch
prd Joshua Astrachan, Carter Logan
with Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny, Tom Waits, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez, Taliyah Whitaker, RZA, Iggy Pop, Carol Kane
release US 14.Jun.19,
UK 12.Jul.19
19/US Universal 1h4

waits swinton buscemi

murray, sevigny, driver
With his usual deadpan style, Jim Jarmusch takes a wry tilt at the zombie apocalypse genre, deploying a starry cast to superb effect and packing the script with witty references that sometimes get a bit surreal. The resolutely low-key comical sensibility won't be to everyone's liking, and some plot threads feel oddly incomplete, but the film has such a gently likeable tone that it will keep Jarmusch fans very happy indeed.
In small-town America, Chief Cliff (Murray) and Officer Ronnie (Driver) notice some odd things happening, perhaps due to the fact that polar fracking has thrown the earth off its axis. Political leaders deny this, of course, but the moon is looking ominous, and the bizarre new undertaker Zelda (Swinton) seems over-interested when people start being killed around town by what looks like wild animals. Officer Mindy (Sevigny) doesn't like any of this at all. And in the woods, Hermit Bob (Waits) watches the dead come back to life, heading into town to feed.
There are a variety of story strands involving townfolk, passers-by and children in some sort of correctional facility, each with a specific journey through these events. Some of these are much more fully constructed than others, such as kindly handyman Hank (Glover) holed up in his shop with comic nerd Bobby (Jones), or angry farmer Frank (Buscemi) facing poetic justice. Everything combines to create a kind of pastiche of American society, reacting to events in ways that are knowing, ironic or just plain stupid. As Ronnie observes, "This won't end well."

Murray and Driver make a terrific double act at the centre, with their impeccably sardonic timing and meandering conversations. Their reactions to each crazy thing they witness is flawlessly timed, as is the way they bounce off the other members of the sprawling ensemble. The standout is the equally impassive Swinton, playing a wide-eyed oddball with a samurai sword and riotous makeup choices, not to mention the film's most random plot turn. Other strands are cool, but less-developed.

Amid the goofy grisliness, Jarmusch is gently poking fun at the oddities of US society, with its mismatched communities and out-of-balance priorities, all heading obliviously to the end of the world. Because of government assurances, no one believes fracking could be dangerous, so they ignore the signs around them, including a bizarrely glowing moon. Jarmusch's matter-of-fact tone makes this unlike any zombie movie ever made. And viewers who get into his groove will love it.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 8.Jul.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall