Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Girl With All The Gifts

Year: 2016
Director: Colm McCarthy
Cast: Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Sennia Nanua, Glenn Close

Plot: In a dystopian future where most people have been either wiped out or turned into hungries i.e. rabid flesh eaters, a young girl named Melanie may be the key to save mankind.

Review: Much like Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, The Girl With All The Gifts is set in a world where most of humanity has been wiped out by a virus, and only a few remain trying to survive against the infected, here known as hungries.

The story begins at a military base, where a group of children are kept prisoner. These children are special because while they have the bloodthirsty instincts of the hungries, they are still able to maintain their sense of humanity and capable of communicating with others. They are kept under surveillance by military sergeant Parks, who considers them abominations, educated by Helen Justineau, the only one who treats them with respect, and experimented upon by Dr Caldwell, who is desperate to find a cure. One particular child, Melanie, stands out among them as she is bright, observant and cares about people around her. However, the army base is overrun by the hungries, and Parks, Caldwell, Helen and Melanie have to run and find shelter in the city.

Colm McCarthy's film may seem like a handsome nod to 28 Days Later at first, but once the film settles into the second half, it partly becomes a character study as we see Melanie learn more about the world around her. Since she had never left the base from the start, it is fascinating to see her react to the world around her, and how quickly she learns to adapt. To that end, young actress Sennia Nanua, impresses in her first feature debut. Her inexperience does show in a few scenes, but her overall performance is very solid.

Gemma Arterton puts in one of her best works as the kind Helen Justineau, who treats the children like actual people, as opposed to Glenn Close's Dr Caldwell, who looks at them like guinea pigs. Close is also strong here, portraying a desperate character who isn't necessarily all bad. The same can also be said about Paddy Considine's Sgt Parks, who demonstrates his mean side early on in the film, but somewhat justifies his motivations towards the end. Considine is also memorable in his role. 

As far as the hungries go, there are a couple of stand out moments. The first involves the initial attack on the base, the second is when the group tries to silently walk through a static horde of hungries in the city, that may turn on them at any second. Credit goes out to the film's cinematography, set design and music team for a job well done.

The film could afford to lose about ten minutes or so, as it feels draggy at times. I also have a slight issue with the manner of demise of two characters at the end, as it seemed too easy. But it's a minor thing, and should not be a reason to not catch this film.

The Girl With All The Gifts is a solid entry into the zombie horror genre, and worth checking out. (7/10)     

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Year: 2016
Director: Edward Zwick
Cast: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Aldis Hodge, Danika Yarosh, Patrick Heusinger, Robert Knepper

Plot: Jack Reacher tries to help a female military officer clear her name over espionage accusations while dealing with the possibility that he may have a daughter from a past relationship.

Review: The first Jack Reacher film released four years ago was a solid action film that takes superstar Tom Cruise out of the Ethan Hunt super action hero mold into something more grounded and serious. This sequel pretty much follows the same road taken by the first film.

Reacher, ex-army major now living on the road and off the grid, helping people whenever possible, comes to the aid of Major Susan Turner, who is arrested by military police on espionage charges shortly after her two investigators were murdered in Afghanistan for possibly stumbling upon something nobody is supposed to know about. Reacher helps her escape custody and goes on the run while dragging along a 15 year old girl named Samantha, who may or may not be Reacher's daughter from a past relationship. As it turns out, the bad guys are military contractors who were supposed to bring back weapons confiscated in Afghanistan, but apparently did not, and are willing to kill to keep it secret.

Director Edward Zwick successfully keeps the pace tight so there isn't a dull moment here. The Jack Reacher films may not have the outrageous stunts or high adrenaline excitement of the Mission: Impossible films but it's fine. It makes up for it by presenting Cruise as a mysterious former army man with a strong moral code, and dangerous skills to go along with it. Zwick keeps the story flowing smoothly, and slightly better than the first film's sluggish middle portion.

Cruise is on point as Reacher, still being able to play a full fledged action hero despite his age starting to show on his face. Cobie Smulders is equally good as Turner, playing her as a tough, ass kicking female soldier who isn't afraid to stand up to Reacher or anyone else that talks down to her. Heroes Reborn's Danika Yarosh is annoying at first as Samantha, but starts growing on you as the story progresses.

The weakness of the film is the villains. Patrick Heusinger's nameless antagonist is clearly a physical match for Reacher, but much too two-dimensional. Robert Knepper, who plays his boss, is also a textbook villain, with too little screen time to shine. There's also the plothole on how Reacher seems to know everything and rarely makes a mistake. It's like he's the perfect hero, his only flaw being unable to connect with Turner and Samantha at times.

All in all, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is a serviceable action movie slightly elevated by Tom Cruise's star power. I certainly wouldn't mind at all if he kept making more of these. (7/10) 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...