World War Z (2013)
Directed by Marc Forster
To be perfectly honest, World War Z was a movie I had very little enthusiasm over ever since production was announced; sure, it was cool that audiences were going to get an epic zombie blockbuster to enjoy finally and Brad Pitt starring in the film was an intriguing premise (especially considering his production shingle Plan B was producing) but after the first trailer hit earlier this year (and having to endure the same trailer in theaters for four months straight) and the fact that I feel like I've had my fill of zombies lately, I just felt rather indifferent to the mega-budget flick as a whole going into it.
But as it turns out, World War Z is a hell of a lot of fun for a PG-13 action flick and despite its glaring lack of gore (my main grievance with the movie, but more on that later), director Marc Forster does a fantastic job of maintaining a great sense of tension throughout. And despite a saggy mid-section that could have used about 10 minutes shaved off to keep up Forster's generally frenetic pacing, World War Z definitely delivers on giving zombie fans tons of undead eye candy which itself was kind of badass to experience on the big screen.
In World War Z, Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a former United Nations employee who now spends his day devoting his life to his adoring wife (Mireille Enos) and two young daughters. However when the zombie apocalypse goes down and the entire world goes to hell in mere moments, Gerry is called upon by his former employers to assist an ambitious virologist (Elyes Gabel) in his global search to find a remedy for the disease that is threatening to wipe out the world's population. Leaving his family in government protection on a military ship in the middle of the Atlantic, Lane heads off with a small team to various countries around the world in hopes of figuring out where the outbreak began so that they can come up with a way to fight off the zombie plague before it's too late for humanity.
As a whole, Forster handles all of the spectacle and destruction you'd hope for in a movie of this scope pretty flawlessly, it's just on the character side of things where World War Z falters a bit. We are introduced to a lot of interesting people throughout Pitt's global journeys and yet, Forster never allows the film's focus to shift away from its hero long enough for us to develop much of a connection to anyone else (which is a shame because there are a lot of great performances by several of WWZ's supporting players, especially in the case of both David Morse and Daniella Kertesz who play equally compelling characters).
That's not saying that Pitt isn’t worthy of the attention- he's just as great here in World War Z as he is in anything else he's done (I mean, let's be honest - has Pitt ever given less than a hundred percent to a movie, even if the movie itself wasn't all that great? Probably not.); so while he's absolutely the perfect guy to save the world, it may be that he's just a little too polished for the part which may end up turning some people off. For me personally, I enjoyed what Pitt does in World War Z but at the same time, I just never felt like he was ever in serious jeopardy at all during the film with a few of the life-threatening moments of WWZ working out just a little too perfectly considering just how massive the zombie outbreak is (and we're talking fast zombies too which never helps anyone's chances for survival).
Thankfully, the zombies themselves are both daunting and intimidating, despite being a design we've seen a million times before which means horror fans shouldn't get their hopes up on seeing anything new in regards to the actual design of WWZ's undead antagonists. But what the zombies lack in creative design they make up for in sheer brute force, especially during a truly breathless airplane sequence where Pitt is forced to handle an outbreak during a flight out of Israel, a location that also boasts one of the most impressive visual feats ever on the big screen with what seems like hundreds of thousands of zombies piling up against the city's wall, threatening to overrun those inside.
And while World War Z ends rather satisfyingly (albeit neatly, mostly due to the film's PG-13 rating), the film's middle section could have used a little trimming as Forster's momentum wanes a bit during a bloated second act. Thankfully, things get right back on track once the story begins to build towards an actual conclusion that begins to tie up a few loose ends and provide the characters with a plausible solution to the zombie outbreak. The finale also provides one of probably a handful of sequences in WWZ that actually feels horror-esque which was a nice note to end the film on.
It's true that there may not necessarily be anything revolutionary going in World War Z in regards to the film's zombie subject matter but that's not to say the film isn't hugely entertaining either because it is; it's just that WWZ isn't a horror movie at all which means genre fans should definitely go into the movie with their expectations in check. Pitt makes for a compelling onscreen presence as usual and Forster definitely delivers some truly wondrous moments of cinematic spectacle in WWZ that make for a movie that's worth experiencing on the big screen but for me, it would have been nice to see a story that mirrored the novel more in terms of its character development (sort of like how Steven Soderbergh handled the interweaving storylines in his viral outbreak film Contagion) and played up the viciousness of the zombies just a little bit more than WWZ does.
3 out of 5