Friday, February 14, 2014

World War Z

Directed by Marc Forster.
2013. Rated PG-13, 116 minutes.
Brad Pitt
Mireille Enos
Fana Mokoena
Daniella Kertesz
James Badge Dale
David Morse
Matthew Fox
Ludi Boeken
Peter Capaldi
Abigail Hargrove
Sterling Jerins

We're told Gerry (Pitt) used to do "dangerous work" for the United Nations. These days he is a stay-at-home dad in Philadelphia. Nothing makes him happier than cooking pancakes for his wife Karin (Enos) and their two daughters. Television news reports tell us that a strange virus has broken out in a number of cities around the globe. Well, you know how it is sometimes. The TV is just background noise to whatever is going on in our lives. However, Gerry should have been paying closer attention. While moving the family about on their daily travels, we all find out this virus has come to the City of Brotherly Love in a major way. The biggest problem with this virus is that it can almost instantly transform a person into a ravenous, mindless creature out to feed on the rest of us. It seems you contract the disease after being bitten by one of the infected. So yeah, Z is for zombies in case you somehow didn't get that.

What ensues is a string of chase scenes punctuated by moments of game-planning. In this case, simplicity is sublime. It generates excitement and tension that lasts throughout. The next wave of sprinting, body-locking zombies is never far off. The tension comes from our heroes running from and/or sneaking around them. Hoping that the good guys aren't heard, seen, smelled, touched, or worse, tasted, is a nerve racking experience. This is especially true when Gerry and company find themselves in a spot where the best solutions have significant risks involved. True, the narrow escape is the oldest trick in the action flick book, but this movie performs it with expert level sleight of hand. For its main distraction, it uses the maximum amount of carnage and mayhem that can be shoe-horned into each PG-13 frame.

Simplicity not only works for the action, it works for the story, too. Sure, it's predictable right from the jump. even the dimmest bulbs can feel illuminated when they figure things out pretty easily. Keeping the viewer intellectually alert is not this movie's aim. The job of the plot is to provide a link between chases without complicating things. In other words, it merely has to stay out of the way. Normally, I would slam a movie for such a lack of ambition. In this case, it works marvelously. Our focus on whether or not our heroes will survive the next scene carries the day.

World War Z is a popcorn flick through and through. And a damn good one. It quickly draws us to the edge of our seats and keeps us there. Visually, it's often stunning in its depiction of the zombies climbing over and interlocking with one another to climb things and/or launch themselves just to get at the nearest human. Brad Pitt gives us a "good enough" performance. This isn't Moneyball or Benjamin Button where he has to emotionally carry the film. He merely has to be cool, like we imagine he always is, zombies be damned. He is. That said, I'll admit that I've not read the novel the movie is based on. I don't know where it cuts corners or added things that weren't there. I have no idea if it remains true to the spirit of the book in any, way, shape, or form. I only know that this is thoroughly fun movie.

MY SCORE: 7.5/10


  1. Sort of a waste of some very good source material, but still an alright film nonetheless. Just a bit disappointing, given how promising the book is. Good review Wendell.

    1. A lot of people have said that. I didn't bother with the book so I don't have anything to compare it to.