November 24, 2016 by bck1402
Stars Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Sennia Nanua, Fisayo Akinade and Glenn Close
Directed by Colm McCarthy
Fair warning, this is British Science Fiction on the big screen, so there are no big-budgeted action set-pieces with lots of mindless explosions. Instead we have a more intimate situation against a backdrop that serves as an allegory for whatever idea the story is trying to get across. In this case, we have something akin to a zombie apocalypse the likes of 28 Days Later or World War Z. Whatever made these undead creatures (let’s avoid that z-word) appears to have an interesting life-cycle too.
As we are introduced into this world, we first meet Melanie (Sennia Nanua) in her cell. At a signal, that being soldiers thumping on doors, Melanie starts strapping herself into a wheelchair. When the soldiers enter, we find that Melanie is quite a nice and proper girl with good manners, even as the soldiers keep their guns on her and ensure she is securely strapped before wheeling her to a classroom with other children in similar wheelchairs. Information about the world and this odd situation is given slowly throughout the first act. Apparently, all these children are infected, which should make them ‘hungeries’ – meaning, under the right circumstances, these children would turn into the monsters that are hunting down normal people to either eat or infect them. But they are different, and are held at some military base under the command of one Sgt Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine). The children attend a class taught by the caring Helen Justine (Gemma Arterton) and are medically attended to by driven Dr Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) who is seeking a cure to this affliction.
When the military base falls, these few, accompanied by a handful of other soldiers, must make their way across the country to another, hopefully safe and secured, base. So, not very unlike the other two z-movies mentioned above. What works is the story and the performances, giving us a perspective from one of the infected, and the normal humans around her who might fear her, want to save her, or simply want to use her. Is Melanie a unfortunate normal girl who’s been infected, a tool to be used, a resource to be exploited, or a hope for possible cure? Can she even be considered to be human anymore?
As is with science fiction, a mirror is held up to give us a glimpse of ourselves should we find ourselves in similar situations, with each of the main core adults represents different reactions in dealing with Melanie. With a script adapted by Mike Carey from his own book, director Colm McCarthy does very well in controlling the screen-story, keeping the pace moving along, building and holding tension as needed, and having an excellent cast carrying the emotional core, particularly with newcomer Sennia Nanua as Melanie.
The make-or-break for these movies are often the journey to the conclusion as well as the ending itself. Some may agree with how it ends while others may not like it. For me, it works extremely well with the rest of the information you get throughout the movie regarding Melanie and the others, as well as the nature of the world around them, showcasing the best that science fiction has to offer. Solid storytelling and presentation is key here coupled with strong performances and a steady hand directing the proceedings make this flick a must.
Rating: ****1/2 / 5