Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead ★★★½

Always bet on dead.

If there was ever a director for Netflix to get behind in 2021 when it comes to buzz, it's most definitely Zack Snyder. Hot on the heels of one of the most talked about films of the year in Zack Snyder's Justice League, Netflix bring the world another epic from a director who doesn't just do things by halves with Army of the Dead. This isn't his first rodeo when it comes to a zombie film, his directorial debut actually being a solid remake of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead, so expectations were reasonably high for his latest film.

Following a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries take the ultimate gamble, venturing into the quarantine zone to pull off the greatest heist ever attempted.

At two-and-a-half hours long, Army of the Dead isn't even the longest Zack Snyder film released in 2021 and still by quite some way. You certainly feel the strain of the runtime in places however, Snyder has a vast landscape to play in with the setting of Las Vegas and he revels in delivering some thoroughly entertaining action sequences full of the expected slow-motion from a Snyder film and plenty of zombie mayhem to keep things ticking over at a reasonable pace. The opening sequence and then the credits, set to Elvis Presley's Viva Las Vegas, is just an indicator of how things are about to go so strap yourself in for the ride.

I've always felt Snyder to be much more of a visual filmmaker, his films usually looking pristine but not being as narratively rich as they could be. Army of the Dead turns that on its head to some extent with an array of characters fleshed out, some more than others, to become something other than an expendable walking meal for the zombies. Speaking of which, the zombies are somewhat more interesting than in most films due to a sense of intelligence and organisation they attack with, led by a Queen and an Alpha zombie with a zombie tiger thrown in for good measure. The stakes are already high enough for the team of mercenaries trying to pull off a lucrative heist but chuck in the fact that these zombies don't just scour the Earth simlessly searching for brains to eat and it becomes a much more dangerous job than they first thought.

Army of the Dead is an enjoyable film to watch and it owes a lot of that to the ensemble gathered to take on such a dangerous task. Dave Bautista followed in the footsteps of Dwayne Johnson in moving on from WWE to take up an acting career, and he is better off for it because he really has gone on to become a fine actor, his role as Scott Ward here another where he gets to play a tough son of a bitch with a tragic backstory that Bautista is able to bring to the table so brilliantly. Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick and Matthias Schweighöfer are the best of the rest of the bunch in what is an ensemble that fit so well together the comedy and more serious moments of the film feel natural.

Serving as the cinematographer for the film as well, Snyder brings a grand scale to a lot of the visuals, Julie Berghoff's production design aiding him massively with a derelict Las Vegas looking quite stunning at times. Tom Holkenborg continues to have a great year with another loud and pounding score that accompanies the moments of chaos rather brilliantly. Army of the Dead is a major coup for Netflix and I'm sure it'll be a major hit for them, I kind of wish we were able to get the chance to see it on the big screen here in the UK.

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