Tuesday 25 October 2016

An interesting take on the zombie genre

* The Girl with All the Gifts, (15A, 111mins)
* The Siege of Jadotville (15A, 108mins)
* Little Men (PG, IFI, 85mins)
* The Clan (15A, 106mins)

Paul Whitington

Published 24/09/2016 | 07:00

Jamie Dornan in the Siege of Jadotville
Jamie Dornan in the Siege of Jadotville

At the start of Colm McCarthy's dystopian thriller The Girl with All the Gifts, a group of angelic-looking children are herded at gunpoint around an underground military compound. The reason for all this caution becomes clear when the kids smell blood and begin snapping their jaws hysterically: they're zombie folks, victims of a mysterious viral epidemic.

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Most of the 'hungries' are unthinking, flesh-obsessed morons, but these children are special, having somehow retained their intelligence. A ruthless scientist called Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) has been conducting experiments on them to find an antidote, to the horror of Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton), a sentimental teacher who's become particularly attached to an exceptional zombie student called Melanie (Sennia Nanua).

Dr Caldwell wants to kill Melanie and cut her up, and Miss Justineau won't hear of it, but all bets are off when the army base is overrun by hordes of flesh-eaters, forcing all of them to go on the run.

Based on an idea by sci-fi writer MR Carey, 'Girl with All the Gifts' is a pretty decent horror film, with science that makes sense and a nice overall visual design considering its slender $4m budget.

Made for Netflix but given a cinema release here before it streams on the channel from October 7, The Siege of Jadotville gives a timely insight into one of the most heroic episodes in Irish military history.

Adapted from a book by Declan Power and directed by Richie Smyth, it tells the story of a 150-strong Irish Army force who were on UN duty in the Congo in 1961 when they got surrounded by 3,000 Katangese rebels.

Jamie Dornan is compelling as Commandant Pat Quinlan, the inspired leader who helped avoid a single Irish death during the subsequent siege. And while Mark Strong is miscast as Conor Cruise O'Brien, and supporting roles are thinly sketched, the battle scenes alone make this solid and well-paced film worth watching.

There's a lot more to Ira Sachs' indie drama Little Men than initially meets the eye. It stars Greg Kinnear as Brian, a theatre actor who returns to his Brooklyn home following his father's death. He and his wife Kathy (Jennifer Ehle) intend to settle there, but there's a problem: Brian's father has been renting the ground floor to a shop owner called Leonor (Paulina Garcia) for a knock-down rent.

When he finds out that the lease is worth $4,000 more a month than she's paying, an unseemly spat ensues - which is unhappily complicated by the fact that Brian and Leonor's teenage sons have become fast friends. Jake (Theo Taplitz) and Tony (Michael Barbieri) are sensitive boys who bond over books and art while their parents debase themselves in a grubby financial dispute. Which makes their friendship all the more tenuous, and touching.

In the early Eighties, during the short but disastrous military dictatorship of General Galtieri, Argentina was traumatised by a plague of disappearances. And Pablo Trapero's thoughtful thriller The Clan tells the true story of one enterprising family that turned kidnapping and killing into a lucrative business.

Guilermo Francella plays Arquimedes Puccio, a Buenos Aires family man who's been working for the government, abducting and killing its enemies. But when Galtieri's regime falls and Arquimedes finds himself unemployed, he starts kidnapping the sons of wealthy citizens and demanding extortionate ransoms.

'The Clan' explores the dark side of bourgeois respectability, and offers telling insight into the banality of evil: it's a fine film, but not an easy watch.

Irish Independent

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