‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ Is A Wonderful, Shocking Surprise Says Mike Long

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THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS. There is always something new. When the found-footage genre seemed played out, along came writer-director Matt Johnson to kick some life into it by taking it back to the 1960s. The zombie trope seems played out, too, yet now comes writer Mike Carey and director Colm McCarthy to turn it in another direction so fiendishly obvious that you’ll be amazed no one thought of it before. To me, that’s the hallmark of a great idea.Screen-Shot-2016-06-21-at-10_48_34-AM

In the near future, a group of angelic-looking waifs are kept in Hannibal Lecter-style containment to be taught basic grade school lessons from teachers none too pleased to be there, while under the thumb of paranoid guards whom the children still treat with genuine affection. This weird promise begins to pay off when one little girl in particular, Devani, is taken away from containment for something more. It is at this point that all hell breaks loose, and the larger premise of the story is revealed.

Now it becomes a zombie story, but it is set apart in numerous ways, first by the confident and restrained performance of Sennia Nanua as Devani, whose acting chops as a young teen are far beyond her years. By turns vicious and sincerely innocent, Ms. Nanua never overplays anything, and makes us genuinely care for her. She is marvelous.locarno-festival_the_girl_with_all_the_gifts_publicity_still_h_2016

Mr. McCarthy understands that with a child at the center of so much carnage, it would be easy for this to become schlock. He avoids trouble by minimizing gore – it’s there, but he doesn’t dwell on it – and by finding ways to present its result more as documentation than indulgence. Ms. Nanua’s naturalness is key. The art direction and cinematography recall Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later; note some apparent undercranking in certain action sequences to add hyper-reality and speed.girl-movie-1

But what makes this movie so special is its uncompromising and completely original ending. You will be shocked — and I understand this is from a young-adult novel. Story is king, and The Girl with all the Gifts proves it.

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(In limited release and streaming.)

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Written By:  Michael Long is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright. He is also a professional speechwriter, and he teaches at Georgetown University. Read more at MikeLongOnline.com.

Photographs are Courtesy:  Warner Bros. Pictures

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