Brad Pitt teams with director Marc Forster to bring to life the Max Brooks novel “World War Z” to the big screen, at least in title. The film script bears little resemblance to the flashback laden, post war accounts that make up the book, and the infected ‘zombies’ here exhibit a pack mentality and bare a closer resemblance to the rage infected victims of “28 Days Later” than anything George Romero has ever created.
World War Z
Starring Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox., David Morse, Fana Mokoena, Peter Capaldi and Moritz Bleibtreu
Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof and Michael Straczynski
Based on the book by Max Brooks
Directed by Marc Forster
After barely escaping New Jersey alive after a daring rooftop helicopter rescue, former United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt) traverses the world on behest of his former employers to stop a Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself.
World War Z works better than it should with its scatter shot story that hops around locations that add little to the answer, barely sticking around to examine or develop stories based on the locals. We get a squadron holed up in a bunker in the Far East lead by James Badge Dale, Jerusalem behind a massive wall as the zombies finally figure out how to scale the side and a World Health Organization lab in Cardiff, Wales among many other locales. The W.H.O features the most egregious misuse of a mega talented cast in a while, with the brilliant Peter Capaldi (In The Loop), Moritz Bleibtreu (Run Lola Run) and Ruth Negga (Misfits TV series) all relegated to a string of clichés and meager dialogue. Pitt is actually quite good here though as the UN specialist running around for a cure in order to protect his family.
The effects work is decent, though tamer than an average episode of “The Walking Dead” to fit under the R rating snuggly with a 14A, as most of it is digitally rendered but with some excellent make up effects on some up close zombies. The scrambling and pack mentality of the zombie hordes in the film are a new idea for the genre, and to be honest it really does nothing positive for the film as it further separates the film from the zombie context and frankly looks terribly fake. Forster opens the film with this self-important film and television montage that practically screams at the audience ‘see, it’s not just a zombie movie, there is many layers’ instead of fully embracing the tone and fun of the genre.
In the end World War Z is a lot better than it should be, as the unrealistic zombies and basic plot with a very spotty story is augmented by some very solid performances from Pitt and others, no matter how underutilized they may be. The film manages to ride these performances to a watchable final product, which may have been so much more if Forster had taken the project more seriously than he appears to have done.
2 ½ out of 5
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