Another book adaptation to add to the forever growing list, it appears that those who don’t have a love for literature are bound to enjoy the cinema more but even if you have read the book, it’s a simple case of treating the film as exactly that, just a film. In this case a film about a young girl, Melanie (Sennia Nanua) who in a dystopian future could be the key for survival, with the help of her favourite teacher (Gemma Arterton), a doctor (Glenn Close) and a military sergeant (Paddy Considine).
Placing an entire film on the shoulders of an actor so young is a difficult thing to do, unless you pick the right young actress and in this case they did just that with Sennia Nanua. There’s an immediate likeable quality to her, there is still the clear evidence of how new she is to this vocation but that is part of the reason her performance is so impressive, she gives the qualities of both being an incredibly polite, young girl while at the same time as being fearless, strong and even dangerous, simultaneously as keeping the audience on her side one hundred percent of the time. The other key element to giving a lead to a young actress is backing her up with strong actors and with Arterton and Close, they clearly fill out the team perfectly. Arterton shows her best maternal instincts, it’s interesting how she can do both ends of the spectrum, she can play roles where she appears as weak but just as easily take on a very strong character, here it mostly falls to the former with a hint of the latter but she’s a brilliant addition. Glenn Close however was the stroke of genius, to get that calibre of actress onto a project that involves zombies was highly unlikely, but anyone who sees it will be glad she did join because she’s just utterly fantastic in this role, it feels like a character you may never really understand, or know how to categorise; it’s almost like an amalgamation of several of the characters she’s played in the past, it’s simply unfortunate she’s not given just slightly more involvement. Considine on the other hand is exactly what you’d expect, because he tends to play quite similar roles or perhaps they’re not that similar but he is, it’s not necessarily negative but it isn’t exactly exciting, he has a few good moments but it feels too stereotypical, you can see his character arch from a mile off.
The arch of the story however, to those who haven’t read the book of course, is more of a surprise, it’s one of the most interesting to take on the zombie genre and basing itself in more actual science does add value. The most surprising factor however is that it’s a story surrounded by fear, danger and death, that manages to forge a strong sense of hope, it bleeds throughout the entire film, which is something very difficult to achieve and you will not see it anywhere else, at least definitely not in this genre; it manages to surprisingly put you at ease, yet it’s still dark, it’s fascinating to watch. Visually the film does well in going for the obvious, taking environments that will be familiar to all viewers and making them overgrown and abandoned, giving that connection of something you know, to create a stronger sense of the dystopia. The film also goes in a completely different direction than most zombie films in not making the main focus gore or horror, there is still that threat but it’s done in a much more subtle way, there is no constant blood and guts thrown in your face, which is much more complimentary to this story, a stronger use of violence would have felt out of place.
There are several words used in this review that sum up why you should watch it; interesting, fascinating, impressive and there’s a lot more similar words you could use, but to put it simply this is a zombie film going in a different direction and it’s exactly what was needed. Director Colm McCarthy may have a much stronger relationship with television rather than film but he’s definitely proved he can take on the big screen, it may have also helped that the screenplay was adapted by the author himself, Mike Carey. These are some great characters in a gripping story that will hold your attention.