Film Review: World War Z

This review was originally published on The Orange Post on 23rd June 2013.

Marc Forster’s World War Z (pronounced zee not zed) has more in common with 28 Days Later and its sequel 28 Weeks Later than the George A. Romero series of zombie flicks. These Z zombies can run, fast. They also leap and stack on top of themselves en masse to climb walls, like a heaving ant nest or a jenga tower. I’m not sure why becoming one of the undead transforms you into a super athlete. All I know is that with my lack of sporting prowess, I’d be a very hungry zombie.

Brad Pitt, complete with foppish nineties hairdo, is a retired UN investigator. When a mystery contagion outbreak occurs, turning millions worldwide into zombies, Pitt’s Gerry Lane must get his family to safety before traversing the planet (well, Korea, Israel and Wales) in search of the origin of the epidemic.

World War Z’s source material is the title of the novel by Max Brooks (son of Mel). Practically nothing of the book, which is written in an oral history style as told by multiple survivors, has made it into the screenplay of this troubled production. I’m not precious about these things. Look forward to a compendium of my movie reviews to be published under the title Dead Serious: Attack of the Zombies. Hey Hollywood! Buy the rights, use the title only, do what you like.

World War Z had a difficult gestation.  The original release date was pushed back to allow a seven week reshoot of the rewritten final third of the film in Budapest. Star Pitt also reportedly clashed with director Forster (Monster’s Ball, Quantum of Solace).

The good news is that the final product hangs together nicely. The thrill ride starts from the first moments of the film and doesn’t let off until the end credits roll. The action is unrelenting and doesn’t stop for anything, including character development. This is Pitt’s film. Supporting characters, such as James Badge Dale’s Captain Speke, appear briefly and are then quickly dispatched. At best, Pitt’s character can be described as an inquisitive investigator who does some investigating.

The zombies in World War Z are mostly of the CGI variety with little attention given to them as individuals. I would have liked just a little subplot involving the ramifications to those left behind when a loved one is turned. In this film, it is literally one bite, some convulsions and twelve seconds later you are one of the running dead, and on with the show.

Strangely, these zombies only seem interested in biting the living, not eating them. The final set piece of the film, set in a laboratory in Wales, takes a tonal shift from the earlier spectacles in the US and Israel. An effective cat and mouse style set piece (that would be one mouse and tens of zombified cats) with locked doors, long corridors and glass cubicles, it is only after the film ends that you realise that it makes little sense. Why are the zombies so intent on chasing the living down, if only to bite them?

On further thought, this would be pretty much the same film if you replaced the zombies with rabid bats, sparkly vampires, teen werewolves or killer tomatoes. The film isn’t so much about the undead, but rather how Brad Pitt saves the world from catastrophe.

Leave your brains at the door (the zombies aren’t interested in them anyway) and enjoy this action packed, not very scary action thriller. I would recommend experiencing World War Z in 2D. I cannot recall a single moment which would have been improved by the extra dimension, or annoying glasses.

Published in: on June 30, 2013 at 16:15  Leave a Comment  
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