Release Date: June 21st 2012 (UK)
Running Time: 116 mins.
Director: Marc Foster
Writer: Max Brooks (Original Novel), J Michael Straczynski (Original Screenplay), Matthew Michael Carnahan (First Rewrite), Drew Goddard (Second Rewrite)
Starring: Brad Pitt, James Badge Dale, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, Matthew Fox, David Morse, David Andrews, Elyes Gabel, Fana Mokoena, Peter Capaldi, Elyes Gabel, Ruth Negga
World War Z has been on my radar for a long time. In 2010 I read the novel and liked it, in 2011 I posted a video of location shooting in Glasgow and in 2012 I posted about the film’s trailer. It is 2013 and it has finally hit UK cinema screens and I watched it and quite enjoyed it.
Gerry Lane (Pitt) is a former U.N. investigator who quit his job working in dangerous places like Liberia and Sri Lanka to be with his wife Karin (Enos) and their two daughters in Philadelphia.
When the family get caught up in a zombie attack they make their way north to New York where they witness the spreading chaos, death and destruction. The east coast of America looks like a war-zone and they only escape thanks to Gerry’s old boss, Thierry Umutoni (Mokoena), the under-secretary of the U.N. who gets them on board the Argus, a U.S. Navy ship which leads a task-force picking up people who can make a difference in a war against zombies.
Gerry Lane and his family are only guaranteed a place on the ship if he joins a team searching for the source of the outbreak and so he races across the world to locations such as South Korea, Israel and Wales to find answers.
I went into this film with an open mind. It was clearly not going to be like the book and it has been well-reported about how the film went through a prolonged development process due to numerous rewrites of the script which was not even finished when filming started. You can tell from the rather perfunctory plot with dumb logic, the massively different changes in tone and the simplistic ending which feels tacked on. That written, whatever criticisms of the script are lost in the fun of this tight little action thriller.
The film’s plot is simple. It starts with happy Hollywood family scenes’ showing Brad Pitt being the ideal house-husband (he can cook, be loving and look sexy!)
And then normality gets rocked off its axis as a zombie apocalypse takes a bite out of life. Said apocalypse is light on gore but still full of action and thrills as the handsome and reliable Pitt travels the world in order to save the day. He does so with some random observations (done in slow-motion and flashback for the audience) and huge leaps of faith that only work in Hollywood films.
The structure of the story is totally different from the book which was an ensemble piece showing the apocalypse from different viewpoints in different nations with some satire thrown in. I still miss that multi-narrative aspect but having a central protagonist to follow works in the film’s favour since it creates a solid arc for the audience to follow throughout a story where action scenes dominate and horror shambles far behind.
The film feels like a cross between 28 Days Later with its fast-zombies and music and Resident Evil 6 with its action sequences where Gerry and a bunch of marines travel from one level to the next expending lots of ammo with some stealth bits where they have to avoid the zombies in tight and dark corridors. It has a few jump-scares but it does not build an atmosphere of dread. Night of the Living Dead, this is not but it does present the spectacle of a zombie apocalypse very well as the most effective zombie action sequences happen during the daytime with huge crowds of zed-heads.
What these sequences get right is the sense of panic and chaos felt in the headlong rush to get away from a stampede of zombies and the disorientation of being engulfed by people. There are many overhead shots and long shots which show lots of people running and it is pretty staggering to watch. Then there will be panicked close-ups as characters swim amidst the moving bodies caught on hand-held camera and it gets pretty exhausting. Movement is life, Gerry says at points, and the chaos movement can create can be pretty stomach churning.
The Jerusalem section has an impressively staged set-piece where Pitt has to flee an onslaught of zombies with a cadre of Israeli soldiers and it is at this moment where it is tensest because you get a sense of what it would be like to be there. You cannot tell who is who or if they are infected. It was bloody disorientating to see it and one could get a sense of how impossible it would be to maintain control.
The 3D helped to deliver these feelings with zombies and object hurtling at the screen but it was the more quiet moments I liked such as the cell/crematorium in Camp Humphreys where ash floats around.
Like the plot, the characters are uncomplicated and maybe a touch bland. Pitt fits in with the proceedings well, looking confident and providing a decent protagonist one would want to follow. It was down to supporting characters like James Badge-Dale’s wry soldier and David Morse’s mad-prophet CIA agent to provide some interesting flavours.
Overall I’d say this is a fun action movie and a decent zombie film. It is not the scariest or most original zombie film by any stretch but an enjoyable way to pass the time.
Apparently it did so well it’s getting a sequel. Sign me up for a viewing.