Why Matt Smith is the surprise star of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Never mind Mr Darcy, Parson Collins steals the show

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young actor in possession of a good reputation must be in want of a decent film role.

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2015 seemed like the year Doctor Who’s Matt Smith would FINALLY find his, but the critical panning of Lost River (sorry Ryan Gosling) and the limited screen time he was afforded in Terminator: Genisys made it a rather anti-climatic 12 months.

Who’d have thought an apocalyptic film about Elizabeth Bennet battling the undead and Mr Darcy would change all that, eh?

Charles Dance – who more than holds his own as the Bennet patriarch – promised us the young actor was “hysterical” as Mr Collins and he wasn’t kidding: howls of laughter drown out any gore-induced gasps every time he opens his mouth. 

For in the middle of this barmy Austen adaptation – the plot follows the famous Bennet sisters as they navigate the complicated zombie-ridden society they’ve been born into, under the watchful eye of their gold-digging mother – Smith’s bumbling “odd” parson provides a welcome dose of familiarity and warmth.

It’s a bit of a struggle to fall for Sam Riley’s Darcy because the sexy sulky aristocrat’s leathers squeak when he walks and every time he talks it comes out all raspy. Someone get the man a lozenge.

As for Jack Huston’s Wickham? Well, unlike the gloriously caddish George Wickhams of conventional Austen adaptations, he quite simply isn’t an officer you’d be tempted to throw ‘fancy leather pants and a fabulous fortune’ Fitzwilliam for.

And though she certainly puts in a decent performance, for me Lily James is too much of a Jane to convincingly cut it as Elizabeth Bennet.

Smith, meanwhile, brings an utterly endearing likeability to Collins – the cousin who’ll inherit the family fortune when Mr Bennet dies.

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From his hilariously understated human reaction to the failure of his marriage proposal, to the unperturbed manner in which he orders more scones in the middle of a discussion about the end of days – and his delightful devotion to Lena Headey’s Lady Catherine DeBourgh – he doesn’t put a foot wrong.

It’s a fine showcase of his comedic talents – so could this be the year Smith finally establishes himself post-Who? He’ll play Prince Phillip to Claire Foy’s Queen Elizabeth II in mammoth Netflix royal drama The Crown later this year – and the four-minute trailer that appeared last month certainly looked promising. (Although that Terminator: Genisys trailer once had us hopeful, too…)

To borrow words from Jane Austen herself, we’d like to think his winning streak, once lost, is not necessarily lost forever. And so far 2016 looks set to be a fine year for Matt Smith.

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Pride & Prejudice & Zombies opens in UK cinemas on February 11th