Jim Jarmusch has been making films for almost forty years. Despite such a prolific career, his bad works can be counted on one hand. This is a direct result of knowing his audience and knowing exactly what it is that they want. This streak continues with his latest feature, The Dead Don’t Die, a zombie horror-comedy which takes on American consumption without ever taking itself too seriously; after all, that film was made about forty years ago. This film can basically be exemplified by a line where a local man expresses his annoyance with the hipsters and their “irony.”
The Dead Don’t Die is an ensemble piece in the vein of some of Jarmusch’s earlier films, telling the story of the archetypal small American town Centerville, Ohio, a town with the charm of simple folks – and the occasional white supremacist – which is suddenly hit with an unexpected case of a global warming-caused zombie invasion. This results in lots of political commentary—a group of children in a juvenile detention centre being the only ones who truly understand the problem, the powers that be continuing to deny the issue, the only media actually covering the disaster being tabloids—but the film is mostly concerned with its comedic chops. Quite frankly, that’s kind of refreshing.
While the film’s direction, cinematography and sound work are all superb, the actors really make this film. Everyone from Steve Buscemi’s racist farmer and Adam Driver’s knowing cop to Tom Waits’ hermit, down to even Iggy Pop and Sara Driver’s coffee-loving zombies, everyone gets a chance to shine. Of course, it’s Tilda Swinton’s strange mortician who steals the show, surprising the audience again and again with her various developments.
This film may well be the most mainstream sort of film that Jarmusch has made in years, maybe ever. It may not be made for the cinematic snobs who can’t enjoy themselves anymore, but anyone looking for self-aware humour, freshly un-fresh zombies, and a general abundance of surprises should definitely give The Dead Don’t Die a watch.
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Shahbaz Khayambashi: @Shakhayam