British sci-fi has always occupied a special place in the movies and TV, a genre punching above its weight, small budgets used by big brains.
I’m thinking of stuff from The Day the Earth Stood Still, to The Day of the Triffids, Dr Who, Threads, and more recently 28 Days Later, Children of Men, Humans and Ex-Machina. I thought I didn’t really like sci-fi but on reflection I do seem to like our Brit version.
And The Girl With All The Gifts**** fits beautifully. I guess Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later is the template – deserted London, zombies – but this starts in one of those shabby British army bases. Children locked in cells and strapped in chairs like Hannibal Lecter to go into class where Gemma Arterton’s Ms Justineau reads them stories and tests them on the periodic table.
The smartest one is Melanie, beautifully and creepily played by stellar newcomer Sennia Nanua (she’s from Nottingham), who is unfailingly polite to all the aggressive soldiers who stand guard, even Paddy Considine’s brute of a Captain.
Then there’s Glenn Close who wants to do experiments on these kids or something. We don’t realised what’s going on until the base’s alarm klaxons and there’s a sustained attack.
It’s one of those zombie apocalypse movies, not my favourite sort of thing, but they’re refereed to as “hungries” here and come to life at the smell of a human. Our band of survivors, with porto-hungry Melanie in tow, make their escape to God knows where.
It’s all about Melanie, really, Can she stay human or give in to the hunger? Do the survivors trust her, knowing how much they also need her to throw the flesh-eating hordes off their own scent? How long will Melanie be content just eating pigeons…?
Great atmosphere and design – props to the set guys who faded the Crunchy Nut Cornflake packets and the ruined shops signs of M&S, Next and – the best gag – Pret A Manger.
This was high-end Brit cinema, with fabulously stonking music from Cristobal Tapia de Veer and a newcomer’s performance that will live long in the memory. Really worth a watch.