As we are all aware, the zombie has made a huge resurgence in recent years in pop culture. In the past this monster was reserved for cheesy B movies but now, it is the subject of Hollywood blockbusters and serious cable TV network shows (A&E's The Walking Dead). World War Z is such a movie, based loosely on the novel written by Max Brooks, that depicts a zombie outbreak on a worldwide scale. What I found most intriguing was seeing the events unfold from the perspective of the government and the people who can actually do something about it instead of a band of survivors who know nothing of the worldwide situation.
World War Z begins with a snazzy and very creepy title sequence featuring news bits and violent animal imagery. We then meet the Lane family. Gerry (Brad Pitt) and Karin (Mireille Enos) and their two daughters (Sterling Jerins and Abigail Hargrove). Gerry is an ex-UN investigator who used to brave dangerous war zones for the organization. This helps him and his family find salvation when the zombie outbreak hits New York where they live. It also gets him recruited to help find patient zero and hopefully, a cure.
The film features some fine performances from the cast, which is made up of Brad Pitt and a bunch of unknowns. Pitt carries the film very well, selling his calm and collected character in every scene while also showing great but subdued emotion when he is worrying about his family. Sometimes it feels like his character is too cool in the tense situations, but for someone who used to hang out in war torn countries it makes sense. Enos is great as his wife too though she gets little to do but look worried or sad about her husband. All of the other characters in the film either show up for small amounts of time here and there or spend some time with Pitt before getting killed. Daniella Kertesz is great as Segen, an Israeli soldier that joins up to help him about halfway through the film. David Morse is fun as an unbalance and disgraced ex-CIA agent. James Badge Dale, Ludi Boeken, and Pierfrancesco Favino also do great in the small roles they have.
The story is pretty simple but well executed as we follow Pitt's character's tumultuous globetrotting adventure (he ends up in many places including New York, Korea, and Israel). The screenplay has three authors including the infamous Damon Lindelof. Luckily his influence seems to have either helped or been overridden by the two other writers, Matthew Michael Carnahan and Drew Goddard. No mystery box bullshit. I especially liked the way Pitt's character would notice clues about the virus, it felt like a sort of Spidey-sense scenario.
Director Marc Forster delivers a lot of well orchestrated shots and sequences. I was worried about this film when I first heard he was helming it, especially after his less than perfect work Quantum of Solace, but he seems to have figured it out. While close one on one fight scenes are still a bit shaky and hard to puzzle out, the massive zombie attacks, especially the one in Israel, look epic. There are also some other cool shots later in the film as well that I won't spoil here.
I was also worried about what the zombies would look like up close since they're mostly only shown from far away in the trailers. Fortunately they are just as gross and creepy as they are in most other zombie media. They also have an interesting body language which leans more towards 28 Days Later than Walking Dead. A lot of jerking and seizure-like movements in addition to sprinting and leaping like cheetahs. Some of them even act a little bit like birds which is both odd and kind of neat.
Gore-hounds will be disappointed however because the movie is very obviously PG-13. At one point Pitt is trying to wrench a crowbar free from a zombie's head but the shot is framed in such a way that the messy details are left off screen and we instead see his grunting face as he tries to pull it out. It's lame in a zombie movie to leave out the blood and the gore but a movie of this scale needs to make money; and unfortunately to make that money it probably needed that PG-13 rating.
Despite reported production woes and massive re-shoots World War Z is in fact a very decent zombie action adventure movie. Pitt's performance and the performances around him are strong while Marc Forster's direction is solid throughout. Definitely worth a matinee if not a full priced ticket at the theater. 3 out of 5 stars.