Army of the Dead – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nora Arnezeder, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tig Notaro, Raúl Castillo, Huma Qureshi, Garret Dillahunt
Available on Netflix on May 21st
After fixing Justice League with his epic four hour version, Zack Snyder is back with his take on the zombie movie. Well, I say zombie movie but it’s actually part heist movie, part zombie movie. You may think that after over a year of a pandemic the last thing you want is to spend over two hours watching a movie about people getting infected with a disease that turns them into the living dead but you’d be wrong. In fact this could be the perfect antidote to the pandemic blues this weekend.
It opens with an army convey carrying a superhuman zombie crashing. Unleashed, their cargo infects all around them before they descend on Las Vegas. Pretty soon the decadent city is full of the undead with zombie hen parties trawling the city alongside zombie Elvis impersonators. With a crisis on their hand the government does the only thing they can and quarantines the city before deciding they will destroy it with a tactical nuclear bomb (I know it sounds close to the bone but stick with me).
Cue an enterprising casino owner who employs a group of mercenaries to break into the city and steal over $200 million from his casino before the bomb hits. The motley crew led by Scott Ward (Bautista) make their way to the devastated former party town and prepare to fight their way through the zombies within. However, all zombies are not created equal and a group of Alphas prove “challenging”. That’s alongside all the standard heist challenges of double crossing crew members and insanely dangerous security systems. Oh, and did I mention that Scott’s estranged daughter Kate (Purnell) has tagged along to look for her friend? Basically there is a lot going on.
Snyder has borrowed heavily from other movies here, including his own Dawn of the Dead (2004). Indeed the whole opening segment is reminiscent of his 2009 movie Watchmen. There are nods to numerous other zombie movies and computer games and heist movies such as Oceans 11. It even feels like there is a nod to Planet of the Apes at one point. However, instead of being a mish-mash it works. The only thing that seems a bit awry is that he has a quarantine camp just outside the city for some unexplained reason. We’re never told if it’s to watch people who may have come into contact with the zombies to see if they have become infected or if it is something more sinister. Given that this movie has been in development since 2009 it is unlikely it was written as an allegory for current world events but with everything going on it feels very relatable.
Wrestler turned actor Bautista is surprisingly good as Ward. He does more than just flex his muscles and brings a real pathos to the father daughter relationship between him and Kate. The rest of the ensemble cast are also impressive and manage to bring grit and humour to characters that could very easily have become heist movie stereotypes.
Visually this is incredibly striking. The decadence of Vegas juxtaposed with the shabbiness of the zombie army is incredibly striking. And the soundtrack is great, although the use of the Cranberries Zombie at the end is a bit questionable when you consider what that song is actually about.
Overall, this is very clever and great fun. It’s a bit long at two and a half hours but that is a minor grumble. It is punchy and well paced and has the right balance of humour and gravity. It is absolute escapism, which is what is needed right now. So pop the corn and settle down for a rollercoaster ride.