After all the controversy and challenges, World War Z the movie is finally here. Director Marc Forster takes the zombie movie genre out of the barn house and makes it explode on the world stage. What could have been a recipe for disaster turns out to be new direction for zombie filmmaking.Though certainly not without its flaws, WWZ is a welcomed addition to the great Summer blockbusters we’ve already seen this year.
The illustrious Brad Pitt plays retired United Nations investigator supreme Gerry Lane. Who suddenly finds himself back in action due to all hell breaking loose on Earth. Pitt’s character is tasked with finding the cause of the zombie outbreak. That mission puts him on a hero’s journey, which takes him to several countries and puts him in the jaws of danger from opening to finish. All the while his left behind family’s well-being depends on him staying alive and finding patient zero.
This film’s production problems have been well documented. Some issues are more apparent than others when you watch the film. Obviously the original book can’t be adapted word-for-word because of its lack of main character and episodic narrative. However, the story written here easily feels as though it could be told in the world of the Brooks novels. World War Z’s narrative is predominately plot driven which is a bit of a shame because Brad Pitt gives a solid performance supported by good supporting actors, who ultimately end up playing set piece characters. No real characterization is found in the movie to really make me want to care about our protagonist. World War Z rarely plays up the protective father dynamic of Pitt’s character. In a way the film does the opposite of The Walking Dead TV show by putting the danger front and center for Gerry to deal with instead of making it subservient to the characters. The controversial third act of the film doesn’t fall flat; it simply ends prematurely but leaves the franchise in a good place to tell future stories. Perhaps its biggest crutch will agitate diehard fans of the horror genre the most, which is the film’s lack of gore. In place of R rated sights, we see a lot of fast pace cutting to create a sense of gratuitous violence you’d expect from a zombie movie.
Where World War Z succeeds is in the chances it takes. For having a PG-13 rating we get big budget epic action that helps to give the story a larger than life feel. The film however doesn’t sacrifice the intimate tension you’d expect from horror movies. One particular showcase of that is the hallway scene with Pitt and his on screen family trying to get to the roof of an apartment building. The film actually does a great job in creating the sense of danger and dread lacking from most of the films in modern horror cinema. In early trailers the CG of the zombie waves looked a bit cheesy. I’m happy to say the final product came in far more polished and kept pace with the break-neck action cinematography going on.
Ultimately World War Z feels like a well stitched together mini-series with its easily distinguishable episodes. It blends the zombie movie with the global action thriller in a way that simply just works. While it falls a bit short of the game changer Paramount Pictures was looking for, it is a solid enjoyable time at the movies that breathes new life in to a beaten to death style of film.
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