REVIEW: ‘A heist film like never seen before’- Army of the Dead (2021)

Image Courtesy of Akron Beacon Journal

Army of the Dead is a zombie film like no other. It’s gritty (more so than any other film filled with the dead) and it’s emotional… all at the same time as being funny, exciting and an all-round pleasure to watch. Following a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of risk-taking mercenaries accept a mission to enter the quarantine zone filled with the living dead at a chance of gaining millions of dollars in cash. Combining the world of zombies and an action-packed mission, it’s a heist film like never seen before.

Going into this film with an open mind is the best way to enjoy the entirety of it. It’s not like traditional zombie films where a group of survivors work together during an apocalypse to survive. And it’s also not like traditional heist films either because… well, zombies are involved. It’s almost a completely fresh look at the zombie genre.  

Though a bit of a long film, stretching to 148 minutes, Army of the Dead doesn’t fail the audience with its continuous twists and turns aiding the viewing experience. Its uniqueness is appealing right from the get-go. Like with a lot of apocalyptic films, the opening is a backstory to the zombie outbreak. However, it is after the initial opening scene that things begin to get interesting. As expected within this genre, there is a montage of fighting, killing and surviving, but over the images of inexorable gore, death and destruction is a cover of Elvis Presley’s ‘Viva Las Vegas’ sung by Richard Cheese and Allison Crowe. The execution of this type of juxtaposition (an upbeat, jazzy song played over harrowing imagery) can be tricky but is accomplished perfectly here. To put it simply, the use of this technique is unique and clever, and a perfect way to spice up an overdone genre. Fittingly, Elvis Presley’s songs star throughout this film, setting the scene perfectly for the heist occurring in Las Vegas. In fact, all of the songs forming the soundtrack for Army of the Dead are ingenious, complementing and then sometimes juxtaposing scenes, therefore eliciting unpredictable emotion constantly. 

Of course, no zombie film is the same without some cliches. There’s reconciliation of family members, heart-breaking backstories, impossible (but apparently possible) fights with one person against a herd of crazed zombies, and heroic acts of sacrifice. As well as these, there’s the traditional character who believes they’re fearless and foolishly runs off alone in a zombie infested wasteland. There is also that one character that has never shot a gun before… but manages to shoot all the zombies in the head first-try. The list goes on. But it’s these things that still make it the apocalyptic film we all love.

Though there are predictable characters in Army of the Dead, there’s also those who are unique and oddly satisfying to cheer on. There’s the tough rebel, the protective father, the comic-relief guy and the mean guy everyone wants dead. But there is also individuality within the zombies. The dead in this film actually have their own sort of community…. their own rules and way of living. Some are even smart and have feelings. At one point it’s even possible to align with the zombies because of the acts of some humans. Though, of course, there’s no arguing that they are still human-eating monsters. Ultimately, due to there being such a range of rich characters, the film allows the audience to pick and choose who they align with and cheer on until the end of this action-packed adventure.  

Now streaming on Netflix, this is the perfect film if you would love to see a combination of a thrilling heist and a zombie adventure, and are impartial to a little eccentricity. 

Year of Release: 2021

Writer & Director: Zack Synder

Editor: Dody Dorn

Composer: Junkie XL

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Chloe D’Inverno

Chloe D'Inverno is the TV & Film editor at The Yorker. If you have any queries, please contact her at film@theyorker.co.uk.