The Girl with All the Gifts

Director: Colm McCarthy (2016) BBFC cert: 15

Unwrap this British action thriller which flowers into a fresh take on the zombie apocalypse.

Young Sennia Nanua gives an endearingly open performance as a teenager of prodigious mental ability. She and her classmates are prisoners in a military research station. Outside of lessons they’re kept in solitary confinement and under armed guard.

Gemma Arterton plays Helen, a gold hearted gun toting teacher who has a maternal bond with Melanie. Along with Glenn Close’s dedicated scientist, Paddy Considine’s gruff army sergeant and Fisayo Akinade’s dim squaddie, the five develop a dysfunctional family dynamic.

Outside the base the majority of the population are suffering from a fungal infection to the brain. This has turned them into fast moving mindless monsters, reminiscent of the manic ‘infected’ from Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002). They are nicknamed ‘the Hungries’ and can be killed by the traditional bullet to the head.

The Girl With All The Gifts is based on the book of the same name by Mike Carey, and it was no surprise to learn the author is a former writer for the cult British comic, 2000AD. Still going strong it is soon to publish its 2000th issue and was recently the subject of a highly entertaining documentary, Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD (2014).

Like all British sci-fi of the last thirty years, this story’s roots are deep in the fertile soil of the self-styled ‘Galaxy’s Greatest comic’. The hallmarks of its best stories are all present here; extreme violence, sardonic humour, strong characters and a twist at the end.

Also the script mines Greek myths for inspiration and throws in baby-eating rats and mother-eating babies into the gory mix. Plus it draws on elements of John Wyndham’s evergreen novel Day Of The Triffids (pub. 1951) as well as William Golding’s The Lord Of The Flies (pub.1954).

The set designers have had great fun turning the West Midlands into an overgrown urban tundra. The make-up artists have a field day and the sound engineers go all out to scare us with an impressive variety of blood curdling noise.

Always keen to keep shovelling on the action, The Girl With All The Gifts offers sufficient rewards for those who dig zombie films.


The Voices

Director: Marjane Satrapi (2015)

It’s claws versus paws in this macabre black comedy as the eternal conflict between good and evil is fought between cat and dog.

But as well as committing the cardinal sin of not being funny, there are clunking changes of tone, weak direction and too many scenes lack energy.

All of which is a shame as there are two great actresses, a decent idea and a laudable attempt to bring something different to the cinematic marketplace.

Pizza-loving Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) lives quietly with Bosco and Mr. Whiskers, his pet dog and cat. He works in a toilet factory, is in therapy and taking medication.

Based in the town of Milton, he is obsessed with angels and devils and happily points out Lucifer was both.

At home the foul-mouthed Mr Whiskers urges him to be bad, Bosco tells him to be good. Reynolds provides the animal voices, including a poorly advised Scottish accent for Mr Whiskers.

Discussions with his pets as to whether Jerry is a good person occupy far too much screen-time and deliver no laughs.

Jerry hangs out with the girls from accounts. He has a crush on Fiona (Gemma Arterton) and ignores the attentions of the clearly interested Lisa (Anna Kendrick). On a night out he kills a co-worker which leads to a spree.

The always engaging Arterton and Kendrick give proceedings an undeserving vitality, bringing glamour, charm and fine singing voices.

But Reynolds is such an unprepossessing leading man he barely registers. He plays sweet when dry would have been more effective. Anything would have been more effective. Maybe Adam Sandler and Paul Rudd were too expensive. Or busy.

The script can’t decide whether Gerry’s bad, mad or a victim. It absolves him of guilt by showing us his traumatic childhood.

There’s some nice production design by Udo Kramer, but the director loses control of her camera and the imagery becomes repetitive. The charitably minded will assume the choreographer was aiming for comic effect.

The film isn’t sufficiently trippy to be interesting, nor is it clever, fast or sharp enough to be funny. It’s a sad day when a Chinese Elvis impersonator can’t make me smile – but he’s just another glaring example of how The Voices mistakes wacky for funny.