Army of the Dead

In 2004, Zack Snyder made his directorial debut with the zombie movie remake ‘Dawn of the Dead’. He has since become an expert in big epic films such as ‘Man of Steel, ‘300’ and ‘Batman vs Superman’. His ability to combine small, emotional stories on a huge canvas has seen great success. Although on the surface, an outrageous zombie flick, ‘Army of the Dead’ is in the same vein. Delivering an eye-full of action, it plays out is family dramas between explosions in the grandiose manner for which Snyder is renowned.

A wealthy Las Vegas casino owner hires former mercenary Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) to retrieve $200 million from his Vegas vault. With the city overrun by blood-thirsty and intelligent zombies and a nuclear strike about to hit the gambling town within 24 hours, Ward and his crew have their work cut out. Among his unit is his daughter Kate (Ella Purnell) who is estranged from her father. While dealing with family issues, Ward battles the undead plague as the clock ticks ever closer to doom.

Playing out like a zombie heist film, ‘Army of the Dead’ is exciting fun. That’s not something usually said about Snyder’s movies with many being very serious and occasionally slow affairs. Although its run-time is equally long, ‘Army of the Dead’ moves much faster than the zombies within it. To be fair event the undead creatures move quickly, with their ferocious natures starkly on display. Their presence lends a genuine sense of danger, even with the added threat of nuclear annihilation hanging over the characters. This allows the plot to have a focus as well as the personal issues all face.

‘Army of the Dead’ isn’t exactly the type of movie you’d expect to have great acting. It does due to the earnest conviction the performers bring. Bautista has evolved into a fine leading man, at once heroic and vulnerable despite his ample girth. His co-stars enter into the story’s spirit with gusto, relishing the blend of humour, drama and action. The latter is shown in the grandest Snyder style, completely over the top but really exciting to watch. It’s definitely his funniest movie although still having a seriousness in the events surrounding his protagonists.

‘Army of the Dead’ is a wild ride only Snyder could create. Scary, funny and consistently engaging, it should appeal to fans of the genre. Always a creative director with a genuine sense of scale, it will be interesting seeing what Snyder conjures up next. If it’s as well handled as his latest effort then his future projects should be worth the wait.

Rating out of 10: 7


Escape Room: Tournament of Champions

Escape Rooms have become a very popular new past-time. Some companies creating ever more elaborate escape rooms for people to test their wits. It’s ultimately up to the participants to disentangle their way out of a maze of rooms. It’s a given that such an idea has been turned into films. ‘Escape Room: Tournament of Champions’ is a sequel to the 2019 thriller. Spinning the concept to its deadly zenith, the second outing is just as engaging with the viewer hoping to never encounter the film’s wicked traps for real.

Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) are survivors of the harrowing escape rooms designed by the shadowy Minos Corporation. Seeking justice, they travel to New York to confront those responsible. Their journey is unexpectedly interrupted as they find themselves caught in another trap. Meeting other former escape room participants, Zoey and Ben have to once again use all their analytical knowledge to overcome the torturous obstacles and defeat the Minos Corporation once and for all.

‘Escape Room 2’ is a satisfying instalment in the series. It differs from similar films in the way in which the psychological mind games are as important as the physical ones. Each contestant is forced to use thinking skills in order to survive. Any small misstep can spell doom for all involved. Strong performances help in making you care about what happens. There’s never a moment where you want certain characters to meet their fate as all equally allow you to invest in their plight and overall story.

A lot of the success goes to returning director Adam Robitel who successfully generates genuine tension. He isn’t simply rehashing what’s been done before as an authentic atmosphere of dread continually percolates. Although the traps are even more spectacular in their danger, there’s more a focus on participant’s relationships, which of course is a crucial key to escaping any of these rooms. Less emphasis on gore and more on thinking allows ‘Escape Room 2’ to stay memorable as the viewer joins in solving clues along with the characters.

As sequels go, ‘Escape Room 2’ is a notch above others. It logically follows on from its predecessor whilst adding intrigue into the shadowy world in which the characters find themselves. There’s a ghoulish kind of fun to be had with the possibility of a third ‘Escape Room’ not as unwelcome as being trapped in one of its perilous chambers.

Rating out of 10: 7