Movie Review

Movie Review: World War Z

"Every human being we save, is one less we have to fight."

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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.

Conclusion
Thanks to Pitt’s terrific performance and a relentless pace, World War Z is a thrilling success.

Nad Rating
A-

5 comments

  1. Great review! I loved this movie. I'm not caught up in the zombie-hype at all, but this seems somewhat realistic. “This” is a deadly viral pathogen created by modifying the rabies virus – it's basically rabies on crack and the infected are perpetually stuck in this beastly mode – hence zombies. It's a really clever way of making zombies believable.

    These are some scenes / incidents in the movie that stuck out to me:

    – At the very beginning of the movie when Gerry is fighting his way to the roof of a building in Newark to get to the chopper, one of the zombies splashes his blood into Gerry's mouth. At this point, he still doesn't know how this thing works, so for all he knows he's infected. He runs to the edge of the roof, counting furiously (because it took that other dude 12 seconds to turn) ready to fling himself off as soon as he starts “turning”. I thought that spoke volumes of the extent people would go to protect their families. I probably would have risked it and waited it out, maybe I'd be a gentle zombie and they'd find a cure for me at some point. Does that make me selfish?

    – I thought the young Harvard doctor who was going to break this thing wide open would survive for longer than 7 minutes. I can't believe he accidentally shot himself. Bad planning, clearly. It feels like it would have been more believable if the child-genius had survived and figured out the virus' behavior instead of Pitt doubling as badass spy, scientist and world savior. He was quite annoying though – especially with that affected British accent.

    – Awesome moment when Segan gets bitten and Gerry acts quickly by chopping off her hand. I gasped out loud. If nothing else, Gerry Lane is good under pressure.

    – It's a bit of a stretch that Gerry and his trusty sidekick survived that plane crash with nothing worse than a metal rod spearing that conveniently missed all essential organs. Karma was really rooting for Gerry.

    – I feel like they could have done a lot more with Gerry's wife. It would have been interesting to see what kind of ruthless beasts people turn into when they're afraid on that ship with shelter and food scarce. That was a Lord of the Flies situation right there. Such a waste.

    – When they believe Pitt's character Gerry has finally succumbed to the zombie onslaught, the UN promptly have his wife and kids deported off the ship. How ruthless is that? I'd like to believe that wouldn't be true in real life, but who knows what will happen when we're attacked by the walking dead.

    – The build-up to Pitt injecting himself with a disease was really unnecessary. We all knew he was gonna volunteer / do-it-himself when he first proposed the idea. Although I have to agree that the walk down that hallway with the zombies rushing past him gave me goosebumps. I do think they could have done more with the scene of him about to inject himself. Since he found pen and paper, he could have just asked them to call the phone when he finds a “good” disease to inject himself with and then held up the little bottles for inspection. Less dramatic tension I guess. At the end of the day, all went well for our extremely lucky hero.

  2. Well hello there. Really enjoyed reading your detailed comments!

    Just some points:

    – I absolutely loved Gerry standing on the edge of the building willing to sacrifice himself for his family. It was such a poignant and powerful moment and I'm glad you reminded me of it.

    – The doctor dying (by accident no less) was such a brave writing move. After he gave that awesome speech about mother nature being a serial killer, I was SURE he was going to be one of the film's biggest heroes. I love such misdirections and it was beautifully executed.

    – Surviving the plane crash… well this is Hollywood. Heheh. Can't say I'm surprised.

    – I too feel like some potential was wasted on the ship. But she was such a non-presence that I didn't really end up caring in the end.

    – The buildup to the injection wasn't too suspenseful as you just knew Pitt would survive. I was also expecting him to use the pen and paper with the camera. It's interesting to note that apparently, the original ending was a full-on battle set in Russia that had Pitt completely obliterating swarms of zombies with an axe! The studio and Pitt also decided it was too Hollywood and went for this low-key ending with the injection. Hmmm… I guess that explains why it's a bit off?

    Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚

  3. It took me some time to eventually watch this, Nadim.
    In fact just finished watching this yesterday.
    And know what? I agree with you. I was entertained.
    Didn't got bored at all.
    Of course, as always, there are holes in the presentation.
    Particularly that thing with the satphone.
    I guess there must be a reason for the undead to wake-up and
    it shouldn't be Brad Pitt's fault! πŸ™‚
    All in all, I like this zombie movie.
    I'm not much of a zombie movie watcher but this I like.
    Seriously, who am I to pass on Brad Pitt?
    I like the guy. Hahaha!

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