A scenic tour of the undead...

Please note the review below may contain minor spoilers - I've done my best to keep them to a minimum.

Whilst already having a storied legacy within the comic industry, Liverpudlian writer Mike Carey has most recently turned his craft to novels, with one of those being the critically acclaimed; The Girl With All The Gifts. After being picked up for production in 2014 - with director Colm McCarthy (known for British shows like Peaky Blinders) on board - that novel now springs to life and graces us upon the big screen.

Somewhere outside of London - deep underground - over 20 young children are locked within small prison cells, each of them treated with disdain and having called this steel box home since they can remember.

One of these children is the upbeat Melanie (Sennia Nanua), who - along with her fellow inmates - is transported - whilst strapped into wheelchairs - under armed guard by Sgt. Parks (Paddy Considine) and his ardent squad of soldiers, to their regular scheduled classes each and every day.

Covering a range of topics, these lessons are taught by the outwardly warm and well-liked - at least among her imprisoned pupils - Helen (Gemma Arterton), who regularly goes off curriculum, to regale her blank canvases with tales of heroic Greek myths.

One night after conversing with Dr. Caroline Caldwell (played by Glenn Close who seems to be reprising her visage as Albert Nobbs), Melanie finds herself no longer transported to the regular scheduled class the next morning. Instead, Sergeant Parks wheels her outside of the facility and gives us a clear indication of their current predicament, as the small base they are situated within is surrounded by a horde of the chomping undead aptly referred to as Ďhungriesí.

Led into a medical facility, the fate of Melanie becomes apparent with a dissection from Dr. Caldwell now seemingly on the menu. Thankfully, the suppressed hungries currently at bay outside didnít get an invite, so they decide to crash the party for a well earned meal interrupting said operation - best laid plans and all that. With the facility now overrun, Melanie along with Parks, Helen and Caldwell make their escape into the outside, into the unknown.

From the offset itís clear that The Girl With All The Gifts is a very different kind of depiction of the zombie genre, with an overpowering score in its setup - if you can call a collection of ambient noises a score - that will have you scrambling for your senses. The zombie genre is a very crowded one, but thankfully The Girl With All The Gifts has cherry-picked some of the best of them, and itís clear to see the influence of Danny Boyleís 28 Days Later and even elements of the gaming medium, with the critically acclaimed The Last of Us on full display here - so much, that it makes that particular games currently in the works film depiction, feel entirely pointless now.

Leading the charge with a breakthrough performance - and astonishingly in her feature film debut - is Sennia Nanua playing Melanie, who despite being proclaimed a Ďmonsterí manages to make you both care and simultaneously feel on edge, abled by the rocky relationship between the packed-lunch ensemble she travels with. Whilst the rest of the cast are serviceable - with some far more well known names and the rest being well, zombie fodder - itís Melanie with whom youíll continue to be invested in and feel for, despite her predilection for raw meat.

The Girl With All The Gifts - Melanie (Sennia Nanua, Paddy Considine, Gemma Arterton and Glenn Close)

Likewise on the CG front, The Girl With All The Gifts continues to make some smart choices. Rather than going all out - the far inferior sequel 28 Weeks Later springs to mind - The Girl With All The Gifts has instead dialled it back to create far more realistic environments, showcasing a rundown London slowly becoming engulfed in nature as the group traverse through it. And knowing thereís just an (estimated) budget of £4 million at work here, the series of shots it manages to pull off are impressive and highlight once again the more grounded feel the film exudes.

Whilst the actual story of The Girl With All The Gifts and the lore surrounding it - a fungal virus transmitted through the passing of bodily fluids that creates the cannibal critters we all love - are already well trodden ground, it still manages to be a tense and intriguing experience, even if itís a little too long and meandering for its own good. Unfortunately I felt the final act of The Girl With All The Gifts goes a little off the reservation, introducing a new troupe to the group that brought back dreaded memories of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, then capping it off with a very un-Hollywood conclusion. And whilst the events of the film's eventual conclusion will be a matter of preference, youíll come to realise upon summary whilst the credits roll, that not a whole lot of story actually unfolds within The Girl With All The Gifts and it clearly takes the scenic route getting there.

For fans of the zombie genre, The Girl With All The Gifts is a must watch, even if it is a little long in the tooth.

The Girl With All The Gifts is clearly influenced by the genre greats such as 28 Days Later, crafted with just a small budget and some grounded CG work, it manages to pull off a tense experience that once again puts British crafted undead movies on the map, and even create a future star with a breakout performance from Sennia Nanua.

  • Review by
    David Robinson

    Twitter: @5ypher

    Posted on
    15th September 2016

  • 4 Out of 5 Stars
  • Too long and meandering

    Last act is rough

  • Sennia Nanua

    Musical score

    Grounded CG

    Tense & intriguing

Film Info

The Girl With All The Gifts The Girl With All The Gifts
Rating: 15
Release Date: 23rd September
Runtime: 1 hr 51 mins
Director: Colm McCarthy
Starring: Sennia Nanua, Paddy Considine, Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close & Fisayo Akinade

  • 28 Days Later
  • The Last of Us
  • 28 Weeks Later

No, it contains numerous scenes of gore depicting cannibalism and murder by gunfire.

Filmed at an actual base (RAF Upper Hayford in Oxfordshire).

Author and screenplay writer Mike Carey aimed to create non-zombies in the vein of Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later.