Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: Graphic violence & offensive language
Dave Bautista as Scott Ward
Ella Purnell as Kate Ward
Omari Hardwick as Vanderohe
Ana de la Reguera as Maria Cruz
Theo Rossi as Burt Cummings
Matthias Schweighöfer as Ludwig Dieter
Nora Arnezeder as Lily
Hiroyuki Sanada as Bly Tanaka
Garret Dillahunt as Martin
Tig Notaro as Marianne Peters
Raúl Castillo as Mikey Guzman
Huma Qureshi as Geeta
Samantha Win as Chambers
Director: Zack Snyder
After a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries takes the ultimate gamble by venturing into the quarantine zone for the greatest heist ever.
Army of the Dead was one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. I’m not a massive fan of zombie movies, I don’t mind them or dislike them, and in fact I enjoy most of them. It’s just that nothing much draws me into them. However, the fact that Zack Snyder is directing had me interested. His first feature film was a remake of Dawn of the Dead, so it was nice to see him go back to his roots. It’s also the only other movie from him other than Sucker Punch which isn’t based on a source material, be that an existing movie, a comic book/graphic novel or a book series. The prospect of a zombie movie meets heist movie, and one set in a zombie filled Las Vegas, sounded very entertaining. So, I knew at the very least it would be a good time, and having watched it I can say that it certainly was that.
As advertised, Army of the Dead is a mix between a zombie movie and a heist movie, with a team brought together to pull off a job with the twist that they’re up against a lot of zombies. Some could say that the plot is pretty standard and predictable, and in some ways it was, but it worked alright for the film and had enough interesting things to make it feel fresh. Overall, the script was pretty good, all the subplots meld perfectly together and I was satisfied everything by the end. There isn’t a lot of time to go deep into character backgrounds but there are moments given to make us care enough about the characters and see why they are there. The worldbuilding is also amazing, the world of this movie is really fleshed out, with a lot of potential for future stories. This is also Snyder’s most comedic movie, while being one of his darkest. Some moments work better than others for sure, but the comedy mostly worked for me, and the dark humour really gives the movie a lot of personality. Despite the premise and how it’s advertised, I wouldn’t say that Army of the Dead is a dumb movie that you turn your brain off before watching. It actually does have some motives beyond just being another zombie movie. There’s even some social and political commentary. Much of the movie revolves around a refuge crisis, and has quite a cynical view of the US government and people in general. That’s quite in line with a lot of other “of the Dead” zombie movies, which quite often have present social commentary. It is also surprisingly serious at points, while there might be some familiar emotional beats, it doesn’t feel forced in and is sincere. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fun movie, but ultimately at its core, Army of the Dead is about a man overcoming grief and trying to reconnect with his daughter. The importance of family and the pain of less is at the centre of the movie, making the film a weirdly fitting pair with Snyder’s other 2021 film, his Justice League. It is a long movie at 2.5 hours, and while that can be daunting, I thought it was the right length even if you really felt the length. It takes its time in the first section but it’s worth it, as it’s setting up and establishing the world and the characters. After that point, I was completely on board with the movie all the way to the end.
The cast are all great and I generally liked most of the characters, each of them served their own role in the story. The standouts for me were Matthias Schweighofer, Tig Notaro and Nora Arnezeder. Dave Bautista is in the lead role as a former mercenary takes to gather a team to pull off the heist, and he’s great. Bautista has been good in past movies like Blade Runner 2049, Spectre and the Marvel movies, but this is definitely the best performance I’ve seen from him so far. The relationship between him and his daughter (Ella Purnell) felt very convincing. The rest of the cast including Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Garret Dillahunt, Raul Castillo, Samantha Win and more also do well in their part.
Of course there’s Zack Snyder’s direction to talk about, which is all around great. I really wish that I got to watch it on the big screen instead of at home on Netflix, because it really felt that it was meant to be seen in the cinema. Army of the Dead actually sees Snyder helming the role of director of photography himself, and as expected, it’s a great looking movie. The practical and digital effects are pretty good, as is the makeup on the zombies, and I really liked how the zombies were portrayed here. There are a lot of fantastic action sequences, very well shot and choreographed. Not to give too much away but the highlight action scenes were one mainly involving Samantha Win’s character that felt something straight out of a John Wick film, and the entire third act which escalates the insane action. Army of the Dead also joins other Snyder films like Watchmen, Batman v Superman and Justice League for very stylish and excellent opening sequences. Junkie XL’s score fits the movie perfectly, and even makes many of the scenes better, especially the moments of action.
It really is no surprise that Netflix is all in with Zack Snyder and Army of the Dead, with a prequel film and anime-style tv series in development already. The action is satisfying, the cast are great and memorable, and I was quite entertained and invested throughout. If you enjoy any zombie movies, it is worth checking out for sure. It’s so far among my favourite movies of the year, and I’m looking forward to seeing more Army of the Dead follow ups and spin offs whenever they come out.