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World War Z – 7

Director – Marc Forster

Cast – Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Ludi Boeken, Fana Mokoena, Elyes Gabel, Peter Capaldi, Pierfrancesco Favino, Ruth Negga, Moritz Bleibtreu, Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins

Release Year – 2013

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Hollywood is no stranger to novels as some of the greatest films of all time have been adapted from them, and the horror genre is just as guilty. Psycho was based on a novel, as was The Amityville Horror, and many of Stephen King and Jack Ketchum’s novels have become full-length films as well.  When Max Brooks’ “World War Z”, an apocalyptic zombie novel, hit shelves in 2006 it took the genre by storm and as expected, a major movie studio (Paramount) secured the film rights to the novel that very same year. After J. Michael Straczynski’s original script was tossed aside and re-written by Matthew Michael Carnaham, filming finally commenced five long years later in mid-2011, with the film’s last setback being its original release date of December 21, 2012 being pushed back to June 21, 2013. Now we finally have the long-expected World War Z on the big screen, and while it is not amazing nor overly worth the seven year wait I did enjoy this 115 minute apocalyptic zombie effort. In a day where 90% of zombie films offer nothing new to the genre World War Z managed to take the usual zombie concept and give us a few new elements not seen in many films of the sub-genre, and with positive direction complimented with intense action this is an experience I suggest you check out.

When a fast-spreading zombie pandemic abruptly spreads throughout the world, retired United Nations investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is tasked with leaving his family on a safe US Navy aircraft carrier and traveling the world with a brilliant scientist and team of Navy Seals in hope of finding the origin to the outbreak and subsequently, the antidote.

As with most of the horror films out there that are based on popular novels, it is hard to not compare the two stories, but with World War Z the comparison is easy. While the novel is told from numerous accounts and assembled by Gerry Lane, the film follows Gerry Lane as he himself is tossed around the Eastern hemisphere. Within the first few minutes of the film the zombie outbreak surrounds Lane and his family as they are out and about in downtown Philadelphia traffic, and most of the first act consists of them trying to find safety from the ever-growing zombie population that is taking over their city. Eventually they find safety when Gerry’s former boss at the UN has them picked up via helicopter and transferred to an offshore aircraft carrier, but there is one condition: only essential personnel are allowed on the carrier, which means Gerry must work on the UN’s behalf if he wishes for his family to have a safe home amidst the chaos on the mainland. This is an easy decision for Jerry, and the second act is a long one that has us following him as he daringly makes his way through South Korea and Israel in hopes of finding more information on the disease. The first two acts are heavy in action and consist of some very grande scenes where thousands upon thousands of zombies are toppling large cities, and unlike some other disaster-esque films these disaster scenes look and feel quite real.  The third act is unlike the other two and I found that refreshing. Also, I enjoyed learning that this act was rewritten by The Cabin in the Woods writer/director, Drew Goddard. While the first two acts focus on action and carnage to visually appease and excite the audience the third act slows things down a lot and instead focuses on tension, delivering some bits of devout horror that I was glad to see. This final act is where science begins to take a heavier role in the film, and the pressure cooker kicks in when a limited amount of time is provided for Gerry to assist scientists in creating an antidote or leave the world to crumble under the mighty hand of an enemy that pretty much only one country was prepared for…but even they did not last.

Director Marc Forster did a great job executing this film, throwing us into the carnage early on and allowing the film’s heavy action sequences to grasp our attention and rarely let go during the first act. His atmosphere is dead-on and the sets used to recreate a crumbling Philadelphia were great and bled “big budget” all over the screen, but in a good way. His transition from the first to second act is great and he manages to keep the action and intensity going despite a change in locations that also brings a change from nighttime to daytime. During these transitions there is heavy zombie action and it is these scenes that truly sell the film to the viewer. I was left in awe at times due to how vast these scenes were, where we see entire cities being toppled by thousands of scrambling zombies that infect their victims only seconds after they have been bitten. We are naturally exposed to CGI effects during these massive scenes but the effects used were respectable. I was glad to see that, when possible, Forster employed live-action effects instead of being lazy and keeping the CGI levels on high. The look of the zombies was positive and their mannerisms made them a bit “different” than the zombie we grew up loving, opting instead for the fast-moving “infected” type seen in films like 28 Days Later. The film and its PG-13 rating do not offer much in regards to gore, and some horror fans may be disappointed in a “zombie” film lacking the goods. I was disappointed to an extent, but the lack of gore did not phase me too much as this really plays off more like a disaster film involving zombies than an outright zombie film. Brad Pitt returns to the genre for the first time since Se7en and does a positive job portraying Gerry. His character is not pushed very much emotionally but he is forced to go through much conflict and tension on multiple continents, and we are given a front row seat to all of it. When the third act hits Forsters directing abilities really show, as the tone of the film changes from an action-packed piece to a slower-moving, tension-filled experience for the final 30 or-so minutes. Atmosphere is key here, and Forster made the most of low-lighting, creepy corners, and an excellent medical facility to provide some good creepiness during the film’s slow but satisfying conclusion.

Overall, World War Z is an exciting ride that gives us plenty of zombies, plenty of action, thrills, a few chills, and an engaging story that never drags despite a near two-hour runtime. Numerous re-writes did little to negatively effect the story and it moves well, giving us three solid acts that each come unique and different than its predecessor. Director Marc Forster does a great job selling the film with grande visuals and positive execution of almost every element involved, and once again Brad Pitt succeeds in the horror genre after an 18 year hiatus.

Rating: 7/10

…Additional Stills…

  1. July 1, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I was impressed with how good this flick looked, but I did expect it to be a lot better in the script. Good review John.

    • July 2, 2013 at 4:22 am

      Thanks. The script was definitely a bit “dumbed down” and aimed at appeasing the masses it seems.

  2. July 1, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    When I read the book, I sometimes forgot it was a war against zombies. I know that sounds weird, but it is about humanity’s response to a global crisis. I was ample prepared to not compare the novel and film when seeing the movie, so I did enjoy it. Quite different for a zombie film, and people that watch more action-type movies are also enjoying the flick.

    • July 2, 2013 at 4:23 am

      Yes I enjoyed that this was not a supreme zombie effort but a disaster film as well, and Brad Pitt’s hair is always perfect. I’m not sure how he does it…

  3. July 1, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    One more thing, I loved how Brad Pitt’s hair remained awesomely perfect throughout the movie.

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