With the horde of zombie properties out there, the challenge is not about telling an exciting story, but making an original one, much more inserting fresh ideas to a generally staling concept. The Girl with All the Gifts succeeds in that.
(Spoiler warning: this paragraph contains only a synopsis, no real spoilers; but the movie really works best when one goes into it knowing nothing, so I recommend skipping reading this paragraph and proceed instead to the next one below the image). Based on a novel (that I haven’t read), this movie depicts a dystopian near-future where a mysterious fungus has mostly devastated humankind, turning those infected into mindless, flesh-eating zombies called “hungries.” In search of a cure, a study is conducted by Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) on infected, second generation children that have mysteriously retained their cognitive abilities despite possessing the craving for flesh like other “hungries.” Locked and restrained like prisoners, the children are despised by the soldiers guarding them, led by Sgt. Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine), but are shown genuine care and kindness by their teacher, Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton). Among her students, Helen particularly grows close to the polite and highly-intelligent Melanie (Sennia Nanua).
The plot has no huge surprises, but I think further revealing additional story details is a disservice already, since one of the things I liked about it is how the narrative skilfully unfolds layers of its world and story, and I don’t want to take away that enjoyment from anyone as much as possible (hence, the odd spoiler warning in the previous paragraph). But let me say this: it wouldn’t be a true zombie flick if nothing happens to upset its opening stability. It does eventually get chaotic and violent, as you would expect from a movie that has zombies. It brings the scares and action.
But besides the typical thrills of a zombie flick, the movie is fully anchored on a thought-provoking script and energized by stellar acting from its cast. I have a few nominal problems though. The production value is kind of low, and the camera work feels amateurish a few times, and there’s one moment in the end where the sound design is a bit annoying. Also, I could have used a few exciting twists. Other than these, everything else adds up in making The Girl with All the Gifts one of the most interesting films of the genre.