by Damon Martin – Editor/Lead Writer
Follow on Twitter @DamonMartin
(With all reviews and recaps some spoilers ahead!)
Before I move forward with this review let me first say that my expectations for World War Z were set remarkably low after what I perceived to be very lacking and over CGI’d trailers I had been watching for the past few months. Add to that, the love and affection I felt for the original source material written by Max Brooks, that I always believed would be best adapted as a long series for HBO or Showtime, and I walked into the theater not expecting to get much out of the film version of this zombie pandemic opus.
I’m not above admitting when I’m wrong, and in this case for World War Z, I can happily bow in defeat and say I had a rousing good time with this film.
The movie opens in suburban Philadelphia where Gerry Lane (portrayed by Brad Pitt) is settling into a new life with his wife and two daughters away from a job that apparently kept him from home most of the time. As he takes his kids to school, Lane and his family are quickly submerged in some kind of riot as people run in sheer panic, flooding the streets and crashing into cars all around them.
It’s in this moment that Lane takes a second to see what’s actually unfolding before his very eyes—a driver is pulled from their car and bitten by another person and seconds later they are reanimated and chasing down other innocent bystanders to attack them as well.
A few scenes later and Lane’s occupation as a former United Nations investigator is revealed and he’s being asked by his government (which is now in shambles) to go back into the field to help find the cause of this new, malevolent threat on the world. In exchange for his cooperation, his family will receive safe passage on a Navy aircraft carrier, far away from this zombie threat.
World War Z does what no other zombie film has ever really done in that it takes this threat global, literally transporting Pitt’s character from South Korea to Israel and then Wales in search of a cure to stop this horrific attack on the world. The film plays out more like 1995’s Outbreak than it does 28 Days Later, but it’s completely understandable in the way they reveal each particular section of the movie
One scenario the filmmakers clearly borrowed from Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead was the concept surrounding hordes of the undead all massing together and forming a virtually unstoppable mass of rotting skin and bones that’s moving forward with one unrelenting goal—to consume human flesh. This is where the CGI comes in and while the film had multiple reshoots and chances to get this right, World War Z still managed to get it wrong in the end.
The trailer revealed a virtual Jenga tower of zombies, one climbing on top of the other to reach the top of a wall, and it’s here where World War Z missed a big step. Certainly the concept of zombies all climbing, scratching and clawing to reach their food is plausible, but the visuals took a major nosedive during these scenes in the film. There was also very little in terms of graphic blood and guts with the slaughter of the zombies, and World War Z didn’t even come close to what is shown on AMC every Sunday night (starting in October for those curious for season 4 of The Walking Dead), but again my belief is the filmmakers were really turning this into a bigger statement on global politics and dealing with a disaster of this magnitude and less about zombies and gore.
It’s in this facet that the film at least touches on the original source material, but that’s about the only similarities you’ll see.
The acting in World War Z is solid all around. Pitt rarely makes a misstep in his performances and this one is no different. If there was one area that he could have improved upon it would be displaying the sheer weight of this situation better, but then again it appears the idea of Lane’s character is that he can stay detached and make life or death decisions on a moment’s notice. The other notable standout from an acting standpoint was Israeli born actress Daniella Kertesz, who does a great job as a soldier who is sent to protect Pitt’s character when the zombies overrun her homeland.
It’s a quiet role without a ton of dialogue, but Kertesz’s eyes reveal the horror of this new world in a way that Pitt didn’t do with his portrayal of Lane.
The soundtrack by Marco Beltrami is also well done, but the best parts of the film are highlighted by the use of Muse’s track “The 2nd Law: Isolated System.” Muse singer Matthew Bellamy admitted in a past interview that he was reading World War Z during the time he was composing much of the band’s latest album, and it was a source for some of the material.
In turn, Bellamy allowed the filmmakers to use some of his music for the movie, and it’s chilling stuff used perfectly in the right scenes.
The ending of the movie has been met with some criticism, and while I won’t spoil anything for anybody the last 30 minutes of World War Z is kind of the opposite from the other three-quarters of the movie. It’s not a bad thing necessarily, but the film goes out like a lamb after spending most of the time on screen roaring like a lion.
Overall, World War Z was a thrilling and fun film for the better part of 90-minutes with a few objectionable scenes tossed in that don’t necessarily ruin the entire project. It’s not a movie that will stand the test of time the way that George Romero’s early zombie trilogy has over the years, but it’s a film I would gladly watch again.
From my lowest expectations going in, World War Z delivered a good trip to the theater and from a zombie purist, I would recommend giving this movie a shot if you get the chance to see it