World War Z Review
by Christian Becker
From George Romero’s 1968 cult classic, Night of the Living Dead, all the way to lighter fares like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, zombies have been a popular topic for the movie-going audience for decades. But no other zombie flick has had more to lose than World War Z. Being titled “the most expensive zombie movie ever made”, this film has run into tons of trouble from financial set backs, to multiple script rewrites, to endless reshoots of key scenes. For a while, it seemed as though director, Marc Forster, and producer, Brad Pitt, didn’t have a handle on this project and it was going to be a “dead on arrival” endeavor. I’m happy to report that it is nowhere near that fatal and I enjoyed it quite a bit. We’ve seen the zombie story told from the perspective of lone survivors or a group in a small town trying to find salvation, but almost never like this type of story. This is a story of a world wide pandemic that threatens the very existence of mankind, and how each country prepares for their inevitable extinction.
The movie wastes no time getting right into the action. We open to family man, Gerry Lane (played by Brad Pitt), beginning his day with his wife and kids like any other day. Gerry works for the UN, so he has a bit of an “in” on all the information about the events taking place, but never did he imagine it would get this bad. Within those first ten minutes, we have our first tension-filled zombie fight. The zombie scenes range in this movie from giant in scale, to smaller ones. I feared that the big city zombie attacks would feel too much like a disaster movie and wouldn’t get me to actually care what was happening to my fellow human beings. Turns out, I was on the edge of my seat, even if I didn’t care for it on an emotional level.
Once he and his family are rescued, Gerry is then recruited to help a team of soldiers and government scientists to look closer into this zombie infestation, find the cause behind it and, hopefully, find a cure. For such a large-scale movie, the premise is actually fairly simple. It’s just Brad Pitt traveling around the world gathering information while having a zombie interrupt in journey every so often. While not doing anything on a ground breaking level, Pitt is on the top of his game here, giving a performance fit for a leading man in an action movie and making the action all the more convincing. There is one scene that takes place in the dark during a rain storm where the zombies are coming at the team from all angles, which represents a truly terrifying situation and brought up a ton of jump scares. Jump scares come in bulk throughout this film. I, myself, jumped a few times at things that caught me by surprise, while a buddy of mine practically fell to the floor.
Some will be disappointed by the lack of an original or emotional story. But where I stand, as far as zombie blockbusters go, this is a superbly crafted adventure. What it lacks in compelling storytelling, it makes up for in suspense, intensity and gripping action sequences. During almost every moment of this movie, I was on the edge of my seat, worried about what would happen next. Director, Marc Forester’s strong suit here is that he is able to create an atmosphere so intense that you won’t be able to turn away. It’s not the story or the characters that should grab you, it’s the heart pounding sensation you get whenever you play a first person shooter video game. Although, the characters aren’t a huge draw, Gerry is still a guy worth rooting for. Pitt turns him, not into an action hero, but a hero with the gift of determination. We are with him from beginning to end trying to solve this mystery and we actually care whether he lives or dies. That’s more than I can say for the rest of the characters (excluding Gerry’s family).
I can appreciate the thought that went into the minor details of the film to make it all the more real. There’s one point where Gerry duct tapes a magazine to his arm, just to slow down the bit of the zombie in case they ever got that close to him. Would this actually effectively work as a shield? Probably not. But I still like that his character thought to do that in the first place. It’s not just a movie about survival. It’s one where the main character has a motive and something to fight for, while also trying his best to survive and protect his family in the process.
The thing about this movie I think people will be most divided on is the ending. I will refrain from giving any sort of spoiler as to how it ends, but I can see the general public being underwhelmed. Personally, I was pleasantly surprised with the ending they went with. It was unique and bold compared to other zombie films, or even other action films for that matter.
World War Z is not your typical zombie apocalypse film, but it is one that fans of the genre will enjoy. With a PG-13 rating, you should expect there to be a pretty tame blood and gore count, but this film doesn’t need the grotesque visuals to make it entertaining and fun. It brings a rush of adrenaline instead, a rush that should stick with you from beginning to end. While the story may be lacking the necessary elements to make this a classic, it’s a fine fit for an action blockbuster looking to give audience members a good time at the movies this summer.