I knew I wanted to see World War Z the first time I saw the trailer. I don’t know when that was exactly; I just know it was a long time ago. Oddly enough, I’d lost my affinity for all things zombie-related years ago so I’m still not quite sure what part of this movie first piqued my interest. Maybe it was Brad Pitt. This is totally possible because I can be a shallow asshole sometimes.
Now that I think about it, I know it wasn’t Pitt. Blondes don’t’ really do it for me, you know? Don’t get me wrong; Mr. Jolie is a good-looking man. He wears his age draped sexily across his face…
Nevertheless, I’d still choose a ginger:
and/or a short, old dude:
In. A. Heartbeat.
But I digress.
I fell in love with zombies around the time I first watched George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. As a small child, I liked to terrify myself regularly by watching these kinds of movies alone, hidden away somewhere in my house. My parents didn’t really approve of my fondness of horror. You see, I was a jumpy kid, prone to nightmares and sometimes sleep walking and my parents didn’t really want (or need) any more reasons for me to fuck with their sleep pattern. They discouraged my hobby and so I buried my love of the undead just beneath the surface.
As is my M.O., I was obsessed with zombies one minute and then I wasn’t. By the time I had reached my teens, my interest in overall horror had begun to wane. Then, Resident Evil happened and that was it, I was fixated once again. Several years after that, zombies somehow managed to go commercial and then the concept promptly jumped the shark. This was also about the time where I said my final goodbyes and walked away from the zombie life and into the world of Asian horror films. I may be fickle in some ways, but I know this for sure: my search for the next great horror movie will never cease. With that said, every now and again I’ll see something zombie-related that takes me back to an adrenaline rush I relished once and I must partake. This was the case with World War Z.
We meet Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), his two daughters (Sterling Jerins & Abigail Hargrove) and his wife Karen (Mireille Enos) at their house early in the morning. We sit with them through breakfast and later wait with them in traffic. They’re off to work, school and to run errands, but instead of disappearing into busy days they end up stuck in traffic. They’re stuck in traffic for a long while. A long while turns into an absurd amount of time and eventually Gerry gets out of his car. He knows something is wrong and that’s when the worry begins to creep into his features. Explosions, panic and subsequent mayhem ensue. Gerry and his family are now on the run. Bad things are happening and they quickly realize they must each run for their lives with all they’ve got.
Gerry seems like a pretty prepared, sharp and agile dude from the start. He instantly makes you wonder about what he used to do for the United Nations before he resigned to be a stay-at-home dad. As those thoughts crystallize in your mind, Gerry gets a call from his old friend, Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena) who used to work with Gerry at the United Nations.
It looks like the UN needs Gerry’s help. There are zombies out there, millions of them, overtaking towns and cities in a matter of hours and days. These zombies move fast, startlingly fast. They’re twitchy and swift, aggressive and persistent. These guys are terrifying because they move in swarms, much like insects. They’re also more astute, not intelligent by any means, but certainly more aware of their surroundings than is customary with these sorts of characters.
Gerry Lane is sent on a mission that takes him across a good bit of the globe. He’s tracking down the origin of the outbreak in the hopes of helping to develop a vaccine. He is met with danger, hoards of tweaker zombies and dastardly types everywhere he goes. World War Z is the story of Lane’s mission to save the world from the most terrifying plague it has ever witnessed.
I’ll start off by saying that I didn’t read the book that this movie is loosely based upon so I can’t really compare the two. All I know is that folks that have read the book insist that the movie differs greatly. Do with that information what you will. Personally, I liked it. I had a lot of fun darting from country to country in search of the origin of this particular zombie infection.
Brad Pitt isn’t bad company on this journey to end the apocalypse before it ends us. He’s good at connecting with people and he brought to life a Gerry Lane that is levelheaded, observant and driven. I found his character rather likeable and easy to trust. I suppose this is why I showed little resistance to the fast pace of the film. Despite a high likeability factor, Pitt’s performance was somewhat lacking. He didn’t bring me a serious action hero or a complex lead. What I got was a pretty well done and likeable Gerry Lane. Pitt surely could have made more of the part, but I suspect the scope and genre of this particular movie limits his options with regards to character development.
Mireille Enos plays Gerry’s wife and, unfortunately, I did not find her performance or character memorable. I don’t know if Enos intended to play a Karen Lane that was detatched and bland, but she did. If portraying a nervous void was the intent, then bravo. Somehow though, I don’t think that is the case. While I think her approach was off, her delivery was good especially considering that she managed to pull things together quite nicely for the action sequences. Enos transmits a fragile loneliness, but she’s quick on her feet and doesn’t come across as a burden when the family is fleeing Philadelphia and I liked that part a lot. I didn’t; however, like that she faded into the background. It was too easy to forget about her character entirely and that is never good.
Daniella Kertesz as the Hebrew soldier that accompanies Gerry on his journey and Pierfrancesco Favino as one of the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) doctors that helps out toward the end of the film, are the standouts of the supporting cast. They’re honest and they somehow anchor the far out situations Gerry must fight through in order to save the planet.
World War Z delivers on several levels. Its quick pace is good and bad in that the story moves along at hyper speed yet it manages to build excellent tension. In other words, you’re flung through this movie experience so fast that it’s hard to take everything in properly. It’s possible that the director, Marc Foster intended for the human element in this film to be blurred. In fact, now that I typed that out I feel that this was likely Foster’s intent, nevertheless, I would still prefer to know a little more about the folks I’m going to follow around a film for two hours. Fortunately, the action sequences are exhilarating and feel entirely too real despite the movie’s fantastical premise.
The unique approach Foster takes with his zombies is slightly comical and mostly menacing. I really like what he did with the undead and I found myself feeling jumpy and nervous at the sight of zombies once more. The cast was good all around and really enabled me to get lost in the environment of the film. In a couple of instances I was irked to see some shoddy albeit, minor CGI considering the sizeable budget for a movie of this caliber. I figure if you’ve got enough cash to pay Brad Pitt to be in your film, you’ve got enough money to make all the explosions look real, even the small ones.
In the end, World War Z is fun. Marc Foster is good at getting his audience buzzed on tension and then carefully maintaining that high of unease throughout the film. I sincerely enjoyed his updated zombies and felt that they added a very specific and pleasing aspect to the film. WWZ is the summer blockbuster I have been expecting since the neighborhood swimming pools opened up for the season. It’s fun and slightly frivolous as there isn’t much thinking to be done while you whiz through this one, but it’s exciting nonetheless.
World War Z (2013) – B
B = Watch it in a theater, stream it on T.V. or add it to your Netflix queue; chances are, you won’t curse me when the credits roll, for recommending.