World War Z
Directed by: Marc Forster
Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, Matthew Fox, Peter Capaldi, James Badge Dale
Running Time: 1 hrs 59 mins
Release Date: June 21, 2013
PLOT: During a global zombie epidemic, a former U.N. employee (Pitt) searches across the globe to find a cure.
WHO’S IT FOR? Don’t consider seeing World War Z in terms of whether you are into zombie culture or not. Instead, ask yourself how much you like movies such as Contagion, or even more importantly, Children of Men.
EXPECTATIONS: The zed thing is dead for me, but I am always open to a new take on the undead, and/or a good action flick. Considering the problems that this movie apparently had with pulling itself together, would World War Z look like it was glaringly put together?
Brad Pitt as Gerry: Mega-star Pitt aligns himself with an action blockbuster in World War Z, and brings in a type of softness to a role that ain’t about killing zombies, but understanding them. With his character having formerly worked in the United Nations, this is a role that plays into Pitt’s humanitarian inclinations, and certainly is not made to show him annihilating zombies like he’s in a Resident Evil movie. Pitt brings a fair amount of passion to this movie, and to this peaceful method that stands apart from so many films about turning the undead into target practice.
Rest of Cast: Other people are indeed in the movie, but none have an effect nearly as much as Pitt. His on-screen wife, played by Mireille Enos, begins as a fighter of sorts herself, but then becomes a nervous voice on the static-filled end of a phone call. Matthew Fox even pops into the movie briefly, with an appearance that’s either a cameo or evidence of a deleted subplot. If anything, Daniella Kertesz provides an embodiment of a soldier’s fear in such chaos, while still providing the movie a couple moments of pure zombie-carnage herself. But other than that, even In the Loop’s show stealer Peter Capaldi is reduced to obvious dialogue, despite his inherent potential.
TALKING: Dialogue doesn’t prove to be one of the more useful tools in this movie, especially when noise gets human beings in trouble in at least two goofy occasions. A monologue from a whimsical Professor Frink of the group is used as a type of core for the movie’s motivations, but it only scares the audience into thinking World War Z is about to head into the direction of something like The Happening. The film’s idea of bouncing Pitt to different countries in order to find answers makes for some of the weaker scenes, the exploration of the conspiracy itself behind the outbreak not creating anything but filling time. If World War Z played out with just screams, from both human beings and zombies, it would likely have the same effect, if not an even stronger one.
SIGHTS: World War Z delivers on its crucial element of providing a global sense of chaos. Not just with its list of international locations, but with the scope it presents of entire countries collapsing under the zed disease. While the film does do a fine job providing PG-13 horror with a few legitimately good jump scares, the most effective imagery involves hundreds of extras and even more digitally animated characters embarking onto endless chaos. As for how it presents its antagonist, Z is supported by its tactful presentations of zombies and their violence, eschewing the simpler pleasures of seeing someone getting torn up by a recently undead person, letting the easier but uglier visuals play out in the viewer’s imagination.
SOUNDS: Though Matthew Bellamy of arpeggio-loving alt rock group Muse is credited as providing additional music to Marco Berlanti’s music, much of the accompaniment here has standard arrangement. Bits of Muse’s sound peak into the score with a motif, but that’s about it. With this choice, the film loses a challenging opportunity to provide music that one wouldn’t normally associate with a global action movie. As for the sound design, these zombies are perfectly unpleasant to hear, achieving a type of horror with their shrieks and twitchy teeth chatters.
BEST SCENE: The segment in Israel, though it collapses in a goofy way, provides the film with its best imagery, ones that showcase the magnitude of these events while also putting the budget to good use. To see all the zombies scurrying up on that wall like the ants in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a type of visual special to the spectacle of World War Z.
ENDING: Concluding on a quieter note than most war movies, World War Z leaves us on one of its many humanitarian notes. “We Are the World” does not start playing during the credits.
QUESTIONS: How much of this story changed from its first draft? Was that Matthew Fox in a cameo, or a highly reduced role? What exactly did other screenwriters like Lindelof, Goddard, and Stracyznski offer? How did Pitt understand that the sick people were indeed ill when he only saw them from so far away?
REWATCHABILITY: With its solid pacing and control over its fluctuating tension, this movie would likely provide another satisfying entertainment experience on its second viewing. The scares might be slightly more anticipated, but the detailed imagery of pure zombie chaos won’t lose its edge.
The undead are lively once more in World War Z, a bolder venture through the dead horse path that is the zombie apocalypse (a concept so tired in jokes, stories, and lame merchandising that my soul died just typing it). The key to Z is its handling of title events, by not actually showing a world war between zombies and humans. For that, one can turn to any other type of movie about humans fighting through hordes of zed folk. This one has the more unique angle of looking for an answer, taking this movie through the more mature urgency of something like Children of Men than Zombieland.
With the movie’s production stories lingering over the film as much as the magnitude it sets for itself, it is unknown watching the film as to what parts of this story were pulled from a hat by numerous added writers. However, it is clear that more than a few brains were at work on this story, which makes for decent twists that elevate the entire entertainment experience. Owning even more to the Children of Men comparison, Z’s twists are mostly welcome, even if goofy, often relying on good and bad luck (is the idea of survival not more than just having good fortune?). This is a story that constantly shifts direction as it shifts location, and by its third act, the problem has not been addressed by a massive battle, but instead by a face-to-face meeting.
Through mature and nifty storytelling, World War Z raises its concept to provide the massive chaos its title requests, and through its fluctuating storytelling, has a fairly solid grip on its audience from beginning to end. With this film, the idea of the zombie apocalypse does not make me want to shoot myself in the head.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10