Film review: ‘Army of the Dead’

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Jacob Baker, Lifestyle Editor

The zombie genre has seen visible fluctuation both in terms of quality and popularity since the early 1930s. Many directors have come and gone, some with little success and some who revitalized the genre back into massive popularity. Director Zack Snyder captured the very best the genre had to offer in his 2004 remake “Dawn of the Dead.” “Army of the Dead” strikes a similar chord that makes zombie films worth celebrating again. 

“Army of the Dead” follows a group of soldiers into zombie-infested Las Vegas to conduct a dangerous heist that can wield the group millions.  

The zombie genre garners a lot of skepticism when it comes to new properties, often leaving viewers questioning whether a new film will bring anything unique to a table many have already been seated at. Directors like Snyder put that argument to rest with films like “Army of the Dead.” 

The zombie genre tropes are there, as expected, but the great thing about a director like Snyder is the fact that those tropes aren’t overdone or glaringly annoying. As often, those exact tropes can ruin a movie. 

“Army of the Dead” may not resemble the same exact brilliance of visual storytelling like Snyder’s comic book films, but Snyder’s clear sense of direction and style is on full display. The first 15 minutes are exceptional with Snyder’s signature cheeky sense of direction. When humor is on display, it delivers every time. The action is crisp, without flaw, purely exhilarating with some truly insane and grizzly imagery. And an aspect of Snyder’s direction that never fails still holds true in “Army of the Dead”— getting the most out of his ensemble cast. 

Former pro-wrestler turned actor, Dave Bautista as Scott Ward, turns in the best performance of his career. Bautista showed true glimpses of his acting ability during his brief screentime in “Blade Runner 2049.” In “Army of the Dead,” Bautista portrays trauma, fatherhood and humanity with such sincere vulnerability, his performance ends up being absolutely masterful. 

Much of the same praise can be given to a lot of the cast. Omari Hardwick as Vanderohe is an absolute blast to watch throughout. Matthias Schweighöfer as Ludwig Dieter is the oddball out of the group, but he is so likable in the role that he never got old being the comedic relief. Nora Arnezeder as Lily ends up being one of the best aspects of the film portraying a rugged and badass coyote tasked with getting the group into Las Vegas. 

For what flaws “Army of the Dead” has, they never ruin the experience. The screenplay does feel like it needs a little more breathing room in some areas. In a couple of instances throughout the film, the screenplay doesn’t add some minor bridging between locations, which can be a little confusing from scene to scene. Some viewers may not have an issue with this, as the more important moments are allotted the time needed to feel as cohesive as possible. 

“Army of the Dead” feels like home for Snyder. In it, all of his best qualities as a director shine clear as day. Spectacular and gruesome action sequences, a grouping of impressive performances with an unforgettable outing from Bautista and storytelling with immense likability and detail all make “Army of the Dead” another great film within Snyder’s filmography.