Director: Marc Forster
Review Author: Tony
This modern approach to zombies having them as Olympic sprinters is seriously messing with my survivability in a zombie apocalypse fantasy.
World War Z is a loose adaptation of the 2006 novel of the same name. Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B gained the rights to the novel in 2007 after outbidding Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way. World War Z could be described as a troubled production after facing setbacks such as script rewrites, reshoots, delays and even ballooning over $40 million dollars over budget. However, even though bombarded with hindrances, it has become the highest grossing zombie film ever and a box office success.
I have my own personal trivia with this film as I stumbled upon the set in August 2011 in Glasgow trying to find my way to the train station; I remember being redirected by crew as I thought I was looking at a car massive car crash. I innocently asked one of the crew if anyone had been hurt, to which the crew members replied in fits of laughter that it was the new Brad Pitt film. But another bizarre tie I have to the film was a month or two later my uncle telling me how he found a script in his room in Malta for a zombie movie starring Brad Pitt. My uncle thought nothing of it at the time and handed it to the reception of the hotel.
The trailers for World War Z painted a very different picture of the film than what I actually saw. I was led to believe that it was a run-of-the-mill epic blockbuster with high-octane action, a big name actor with zombies instead of terrorists, aliens or Nazi’s. Instead, World War Z is more of an international thriller which maintains its horror elements and certain zombie lore.
The film first introduces us to our protagonist Gerry Lane and his family, they are presented as a typical suburban family, however the film hints at the misfortunes to come with grim reports on their television. After the film has established that Gerry is the dream husband and father (and that Brad Pitt still looks more handsome than 99% of men regardless of any haircut) we see the family stuck in heavy traffic in Philadelphia (These scenes were shot in Glasgow). There is further foreshadowing with news reports on their radio. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose and Gerry has to get his family to safety as people are literally going rabid around them. The story then has Brad hired by his former handler to investigate this global pandemic which is rapidly spreading across the globe. From there, Gerry has to scan the globe for answers before it’s too late.
As I mentioned earlier, this is not your typical zombie film, these zombies are driven by sheer will, putting themselves in harm’s way to reach their target which makes for some shocking sequences. This is a largely bloodless affair which may be a surprise to fans of the zombie genre which is typically not for the squeamish as it’s known for its high levels of gore. While this may be disappointing, the film still maintains claustrophobic horror sequences and some heart pounding jump scares. This is largely a thriller film which slowly reveals aspects of the infection throughout. I enjoyed this about the film as it felt like a clever approach to a worn out genre. The various locations for set pieces is a breath of fresh air, it’s interesting to see how different countries have attempted to counter the pandemic.
Marc Forster shoots the film in a fast-paced, almost wild manner which leaves very little room to breathe. This works both for and against the film. I liked the intensity on display, every moment felt like a life or death situation, however the shaky camerawork left me feeling nauseous and wishing I could actually see what was happening in the chaos. The music resembles The Exorcist’s Tubular Bells, which thump over long shots of cities falling to the pandemonium. They use these long shots several times, which doesn’t always work.
Brad Pitt is the leading man of the film, there’s no consistent supporting cast as we have an ensemble of characters who aide and hinder Gerry in his travels. David Morse shows up as a creepy cameo who informs us of North Korea’s radical measures for countering the spread of the infection. James Badge Dale also shows up as a no-nonsense US army ranger, but the film falls upon Pitt’s shoulders to provide answers. Gerry Lane is a good protagonist as it portrays him as resourceful and brave; perhaps he’s presented as a bit too perfect as he’s willing to put himself in danger a number of times with no hesitation which comes across as a bit false.
The film has some epic action scenes with widespread destruction; these scenes are insanely entertaining when the camera isn’t going into seizure mode. We see zombies moving in huge numbers which looks almost like waves of undead consuming all in their path; while it does look a little silly, it’s also a lot of fun so it can be forgiven. The CGI is less than stellar though, and considering the budget of the film; I felt it could have been more polished. My favourite scenes were the more horror inspired ones with eerie background noises and effective sound design which raise the tension. I found myself on the edge of my frustrated at our heroes for being clumsy or reckless.
The Third act of this film is hard to judge as the last 40 minutes are a reshoot. Originally the story saw Gerry crash landing in Russia and being drafted into the military, which leads to an epic battle for Moscow. The actual third act of this film couldn’t be any more different, in fact it feels like the films pace takes a massive turn. I won’t spoil anything, but the third act is the grand finale we usually see with these epic block buster films. While it has been criticized as anti-climactic I actually like the conclusion to World War Z. It might not give us the conclusion we were expecting, but it provides a clever solution. My only gripe is the final moments of the film have a montage of cut scenes with different countries combating the zombies which look really intriguing and had me wishing we could see more of them.
World War Z is a flawed but interesting addition to the zombie genre; it’s presented in a wild but grounded manner which perhaps makes it one of the most realistic zombie films I’ve seen. I liked the fact that the film called its antagonists zombies as too many films seem to shy away, usually they are dubbed calling them the infected or the undead (A film about zombies will not lose credibility by calling them by their name).
Rating: 2.8 / 5 Pints of Guinness