Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Movie Review: World War Z

World War Z
Directed by: Marc Forster.
Written by: Matthew Michael Carnahan and Drew Goddard & Damon Lindelof  and J. Michael Straczynski based on the novel by Max Brooks.
Starring: Brad Pitt (Gerry Lane), Mireille Enos (Karin Lane), Daniella Kertesz (Segen), James Badge Dale (Captain Speke), Ludi Boeken (Jurgen Warmbrunn), Matthew Fox (Parajumper), Fana Mokoena (Thierry Umutoni), David Morse (Ex-CIA Agent), Elyes Gabel (Andrew Fassbach), Peter Capaldi (W.H.O. Doctor), Pierfrancesco Favino (W.H.O. Doctor), Ruth Negga (W.H.O. Doctor), Moritz Bleibtreu (W.H.O. Doctor), Sterling Jerins (Constance Lane), Abigail Hargrove (Rachel Lane), Fabrizio Zacharee Guido (Tomas), David Andrews (Naval Commander).

The zombie genre hasn’t really changed much since George A. Romero pretty much invented it with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. Romero is still the undisputed master – making 6 films in his “dead” series in the 45 years since the first (he always said he wanted to make 10 – I doubt he’ll make it). The one thing almost every zombie movie – whether it shows the outbreak or is about the aftermath – is that it is about a confined group of people, in one location. The outside world may or may not be falling down like they are – they just don’t know (I supposed 28 Weeks Later is an exception). The biggest debate in zombie movie circles ever happened with the release of 28 Days Later and the remake of Dawn of the Dead – should zombies run?

On that level, you can at least say World War Z offers something slightly new to the zombie genre. Although, unlike the book the film is based on, the movie concentrates on one person, it does offer a global perspective on a zombie outbreak. Max Brooks book had more on its mind than zombies – and was really about politics, and how countries around the world would react to an outbreak of this kind. As far as zombie fiction goes, it actually took the questions relatively seriously.

The movie doesn’t follow the book exactly – that would have made it episodic, and since Brad Pitt was on board, he needs to be at the center of it. So instead of showing us the outbreak piece by piece, country by country with a revolving door of characters, the film concentrates on Pitt’s Gerry Lane – a former UN Investigator called back into service to hope around the globe and try and find where the zombie outbreak started. If they knew where it started, they may know how to stop it. He doesn’t want to do this, but if he doesn’t he and his family – wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and two daughters will be thrown off the relative safety of the Navy ship they’ve be taken in on. He doesn’t really have a choice.

I said earlier that this kind of globetrotting action epic is new to the zombie genre – and I really do believe that – that doesn’t mean that World War Z is exactly original. To be, this almost felt like the type of disaster movie that Roland Emmerich usually makes – although one that is done much better than most of his films. The film is more of a thriller and action movie than a horror film – I wasn’t really scared at any point during the film (although my wife was, but she’s scared of everything in movies). That doesn’t mean the movie isn’t intense – because there are great moments of tension – or exciting – as the film has a couple of great action sequences (the one in Israel is particularly well handled).

And I did like the zombies in this film. I have always been more of a “slow zombie” guy than one of the new breed of running zombies. The zombies win not because of their speed or strength or smarts, but simply because there are too many of them, and they overwhelm you. In World War Z, the zombies are running – and it works really well. Director Marc Forster has said he was inspired by insects with these zombies, and you can easily see that when the zombies swarm their prey, or even when they’re by themselves – trapped in a corner like a fly trying to get out a closed window.

Pitt anchors the movie with his good guy routine – which he does well. While I always like Pitt more when he takes chances – and few movie stars of his caliber have taken as many over the last decade – it’s easy to forget just how good he can be when he’s in full movie star mode as he is here. It’s not going to get him an Oscar or anything, but a movie like this needs a good guy at it’s core – someone for the audience to root for – and Pitt more than fits the bill.

World War Z is well made, mainstream entertainment. I had fun watching the film for two hours, and if the hinted at sequel materializes I see it. The film took some chances and mixed genres effectively. And while the movie doesn’t skimp on action, it also doesn’t beat you into submission with it like many of the action movies so far this summer. It may not be a great film, but it’s an effective one.

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