Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Written by: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover
No one relishes in the mundanity of life more than director Jim Jarmusch and it even surprised me that he brought that style of filmmaking to the zombie genre with his latest feature, The Dead Don’t Die.
In the sleepy town of Centerville, police officers Cliff (Bill Murray) and Ronnie (Adam Driver) are made aware of some missing chickens reported by Farmer Miller (Steve Buscemi). This along with other strange events happening raise the suspicion that something wonky might be occurring in their jurisdiction. They soon discover a zombie apocalypse has begun that will soon overtake the small town.
My first experience with any Jarmusch film began with another collaboration with Adam Driver in Paterson and I was not prepared for his particular style of filmmaking. A film that focuses on the little things in life and how they stick out even within daily routines. After letting it marinate in my mind, I’ve grown to appreciate it. Paterson also allowed me to enter The Dead Don’t Die with the correct mindset and expectations and in the end, I appreciate what Jarmusch did with the zombie genre. In order for this story to have any modicum of success, the cast needed to be right and luckily enough there was plenty of greatness to go around.
Filled to the brim with good actors, this cast knew exactly what they were getting themselves into. My favorite of the bunch being Adam Driver with possibly the greatest line delivery in the history of cinema with how he pronounces “ghouls.” Bill Murray certainly showed up on set, Tilda Swinton continues her streak of proving that she may be from a different species, Steve Buscemi provides more wackiness, and Danny Glover brings the usual charm. All of the characters have a connection through living in the same town but they each have their own journeys within the zombie apocalypse.
While I enjoyed the movie overall, the story turns into a complete mess, which might have been on purpose. It’s not an excuse, however, especially when it gets the third act and a certain reveal recontextualizes nearly everything that occurred previously. The film knows its identity and the very meta way it seeks to connect with the audience. It will certainly not work for everyone but I enjoyed the whole exercise of this story in the end. A great way of looking at it, an exercise in a particular type of filmmaking by Jarmusch.
Not much to discuss about the film because the lack of actual substance remains the entire point. It serves to subvert the zombie genre, which has exploded in popularity at the turn of the century. Usually action-packed with plenty of gore in the process, these films seek to thrill in a different way than from their inception. Typically, the killing looks incredibly epic, but The Dead Don’t Die displays it as a real chore. Every time Cliff or Ronnie have to decapitate a zombie, they hate how messy it gets. Again, focusing on the mundanity of it all.