There’s no way around it: zombies have gotten hip in recent years. Vampires had their 15 minutes of fame with the onslaught of Twilights and Vampire Diaries, but now thanks to the enormous success of AMC’s gritty drama (The Walking Dead), zombies have experienced an unexpected resurgence in pop culture. Say hello to the latest entry in the undead mix: Brad Pitt’s apocalyptic thriller, World War Z.
Notice how I referred to World War Z as Pitt’s project and not Marc Foster’s (the director). That’s because Pitt’s hands are all over the production. Not only is he the star of this unsettling blockbuster, he acquired the film rights himself back in 2007 after an infamous bidding war with Leonardo DiCaprio. The film then underwent a tumultuous production cycle, most notably when its ending was re-shot after Paramount executives (in addition to Pitt and the crew) felt it didn’t come together as a whole. And so the million dollar question was formed: could Mr. Jolie carry the film to his usual success after the barrage of bad buzz that preceded it? Financially, the film is a bonafide success and already on its way to being one of the year’s biggest hits. But is it worthy of your time?
Plain and simple, Brad Pitt is excellent in the role of Gerry Lane, a United Nations investigator thrust into the center of a catastrophic pandemic. He grounds the film from the opening frames, and ensures our total investment in his plight. His character doesn’t undergo any sort of personal journey (a slightly missed opportunity), but Pitt nonetheless turns in a finely-executed performance. He’s likeable and easy to root for, and that’s just what World War Z needs from its protagonist.
As for the rest of the cast, Daniella Kertesz is the only true standout as a tough-as-nails Israeli soldier named Segan. She and Pitt forge a charming camaraderie throughout the film and I would have liked to see more of their dynamic. Less successful is Mireille Enos as Lane’s wife; she doesn’t get much to do beside mope around and stare at her phone aimlessly. The less said about Pitt’s useless kids, the better.
I’m not a fan of films relying too much on special effects, but I found myself surprisingly impressed by World War Z‘s computer-generated zombies. While The Walking Dead uses a combination of prosthetics and makeup to bring the undead to life (pardon the pun), the CGI in World War Z depicts them as swarms of parasites from which there’s no escape. All things considered, the approach works quite well within the film’s world.
The action sequences are especially riveting, with an impeccably-produced midair outbreak, and a harrowing set-piece in Jerusalem. World War Z does an admirable job of sustaining the tension throughout, culminating *major spoiler* in a goose bump-inducing scene with Pitt walking through a legion of zombies in the film’s climax.*major spoiler* Marco Beltrami’s ominous score coupled with gorgeous cinematography combine for a spine-tingling little moment that I’m just dying to rewatch. It’s the kind of moment that was missing from this year’s Man Of Steel.
Apparently Paramount has already green-lit a sequel, as Foster and Pitt envisioned the book as a trilogy. I can’t say I’m not looking forward to a follow-up, although I can’t imagine where the story will go next. I’ll obviously give it a chance though, because amidst the inflated $200 million budget and bad press, Pitt (and Foster) still managed to carve up a creepy and action-packed adventure.
Thanks to Pitt’s terrific performance and a relentless pace, World War Z is a thrilling success.