Review: World War Z
PLOT: WORLD WAR Z follows the adventures of a United Nations employee and his family who find themselves trapped in the middle of a massive zombie epidemic. He is soon brought into service to help find answers to stop the deadly occurrence from destroying humanity as we know it.
As an old school George Romero fan, the thought of a massive budget zombie flick starring Brad Pitt was beyond a ridiculous idea. Yet here we are with an action-packed, Brad Pitt produced zombie movie based on the Max Brooks novel WORLD WAR Z. Directed by Marc Forster (FINDING NEVERLAND, MONSTER’S BALL, QUANTUM OF SOLACE), the violence erupts quickly for Pitt who plays a ex United Nations employee (current stay-at-home dad) named Gerry Lane who fights to protect his wife Karen (Mireille Enos) and their two young daughters. The family dynamic quickly establishes WWZ as a somewhat character driven thriller, and it is better off for that.
Let’s get this out of the way right now, the feature film adaptation is nothing like the book by Max Brooks. Instead of individualized accounts, this is Gerry’s story alone. If you are looking for a movie with deep social relevance and a sort of reinvention of the zombie genre, you won’t get it with this. The material here, unlike the novel, feels familiar if you are a fan of this kind of story. Albeit, the human dynamic from Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD as well as the TV series “The Walking Dead” is covered well and good in WWZ. There are even shades of 28 DAYS LATER as they first describe the infected people who have suddenly developed speed and a hunger for human flesh. It may not be original but it still works.
Thankfully as previously mentioned it is easy to root for the Lane family. Brad Pitt and Mireille Enos (AMC’s “The Killing”) help ground this story thus making the stakes higher from the get go. As a couple and as parents, you certainly want to see the family survive. The focus on the Lane family adds a little depth to the story. Thankfully it remains that way to an extent, even when Gerry goes into combat mode to search for answers. The connection between them is never lost. Credit must be given to both actors as they fully commit and give strong performances. While many of the other characters aren’t served quite as well, James Badge Dale and Michiel Huisman as military men and David Morse as an ex-CIA agent add credibility to the horror at hand.
Marc Forster keeps things moving quickly throughout the under two hour running time which is refreshing. While the Lane family is at a stand-still during a massive traffic jam, the action picks up quickly and seldom stops. Several of the set-pieces are far more exciting than I had expected. Occasionally however, the constant falling bodies (the zombies or whatever you want to call them have no regard for safety) is almost too much that it is difficult to figure out who is who. If you’ve watched the trailer, you’ve witnessed the massive wall as the undead scramble all over each other to get to the top. The scene works better in context and on a large screen. Of course, unlike the trailer, you do get a closer look at these flesh eaters and they are effectively creepy, if not as terrifying as you may hope.
WORLD WAR Z works as an action film starring Brad Pitt, and he makes for a very good action hero. As a zombie film it works well enough that audiences who have made “The Walking Dead” a success will appreciate it more than they would have say ten years ago. Even still, the hit AMC series features more brutality and gore than you will find in WWZ. The PG-13 rated feature is low on the red stuff and many of the cuts and bites are off-camera. This alone may bother hardcore zombie fans looking for a little sauce with their violence. Surprisingly enough there was enough good that the lack of gore is made up for by tension and suspense. It still mostly works.
As far as the story itself, it does feel as if there were a few too many ideas going on and way too many cooks in the kitchen as it were. One scene involving an airplane crash leads impossibly to another. It feels ridiculously convenient and you have to wonder if there was something cut from that part of the film. Considering this globe-trotting adventure is so massive in its exploits, it almost feels as if they tried to shorten it too much. Instead of getting from point A to point B, they jump around a bit for the sake of pushing the story forward. And even though it may seem unrealistically convenient, the last half hour worked measurably better than I had expected. Of course, it’s guaranteed that some folks will take issue.
While watching a world overrun by these monsters and the massive explosions and destruction along the way, it helps that Marco Beltrami created such an unnervingly bombastic score. He, along with rock band Muse adds another level to the feature. While it may not be all that subtle, it amps up the nerve-inducing end of the world thrill-of-it-all feel. As far as the 3D is concerned, it is hard to say whether it necessarily added to the experience, yet it didn’t hinder it. In the end, WORLD WAR Z was better than I had expected, thanks to characters that were sympathetic and an extremely swift pace. This is not nearly the disaster that it could have been. As it stands, WWZ is a satisfying enough popcorn flick featuring strong leading performances and a fun time at the cinema!