Film Review: World War Z

Saturday 28 December 2013 by

World War Z, Film, Brad Pitt, Marc Forster

I’ve seen World War Z before (and read, and loved, the book), so this is a second-time-around review.

If you’ve read the book, don’t go in thinking that this is going to be anything like it; the premise is a very loose basis on the novel (huge zombie outbreak and visiting different countries), but there the similarities pretty much end.

Gerry Lane (played by Brad Pitt) used to work for the UN as an investigator and went to some pretty unpleasant corners of the globe. But he’s now retired and much prefers making pancakes for his wife and two daughters.

However, Gerry’s quiet life doesn’t last very long. Suddenly the city streets are transformed in to a bloody massacre as crazed, aggressive and very bitey people start to attack. Gerry races to get his family to safety, and conveniently gets a call from his old boss offering an evacuation to a ship.

But the safe place on said ship comes with a clause – Gerry has to go with a virologist to South Korea in order to determine the source of the virus that is turning people in to zombies, or “Zeeks”. In his hunt for Patient Zero and Zeek’s weakness, Gerry finds himself travelling to South Korea, Israel and even Wales. In between times, he cuts of a soldier’s hand, blows up a plane, and fights hand to hand with zombies.

As a zombie story fan, I can definitely get on board with this film. It has the right kind of peril, an interesting zombie origins theory, and some heroic Brad Pitt. A good combination if you ask me, and I even rather enjoy the title track from Muse. As zombie stories go, this is a good one – think 28 Days Later and you get an idea of the pacing and threat level.

I am sad that it doesn’t have more similarities with the novel. The novel was absolutely fantastic, and I think they could have worked it really well, but it obviously didn’t sit with Hollywood’s zombie vision. They needed more explosions (check), a better backstory than a journalistic protagonist (check) and a single storyline to cram in to 123 minutes rather than several plot threads (check).

As characters, I can also get on board with Gerry very quickly – he’s accessible, just heroic enough to be believable, and he’s Brad Pitt. Daniella Kertesz as young Israeli solider Segen is incredible; I love her instantly, from her bravado to her painful vulnerability and fierce loyalty.

But on from that, you’re on fairly shaky ground. Not because of any lack of skill; cameos from Matthew Fox, Peter Capaldi (the new Doctor), Ruth Negga (of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D fame) and Pierfrancesco Favino are all proof that the acting chops are up there with the best. But the characters are barely sketched out for the purposes of the film – the children appear and disappear as convenient, and Karin (Gerry’s wife, played by the lovely Mireille Enos) and Thierry (Gerry’s old boss, played by Fana Mokoena) work as basic plot-movers to help Gerry on his journey.

The peril levels fluctuate perfectly for a tense and thrilling watch. You get lovely moments of calm and clarity that work to draw you in, knowing that just around the corner could be a fierce and violent scene of explosions, zombies and blood. The zombie scenes are performed nicely, with the right amount of time spent on them.

This film didn’t have as much popularity as was expected, perhaps because it took such a divergence from the book, and I definitely wouldn’t rate it highly in the zombie genre, but it’s perhaps a good starter film for anyone wanting to get to know zombies. It swiftly covers all the key points to a zombie story, and then gets on with being (predominantly) an action film.

The fact that I’ve watched it twice now is a good sign; but then there are limits to the number of zombie films out there so I inevitably run over old ground. Having said that, this is pretty good ground to go over again.

Rating, Four, Review

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