A plague has precipitously spread across the globe. Philadelphia, Newark, Washington: Each city’s populace victim to the bites of ravenous zombies. U.N. reports indicate mayhem has also reached other cities and continents; the blight is spreading quickly. So who would you want at the helm, desperately searching for a healing agent? Well it’s obvious, Brad Pitt.
World War Z takes a calculable, routine zombie script (take your pick from any of the “Dead” movies) and molds it with a thriller where a protagonist has to laboriously unearth a fixture to a global catastrophe (think “Contagion”) to create a must-see summer blockbuster. There’s so much noise; so many on-edge, pressure-packed moments, viewers are left no choice but to search theater doors for a lingering zombie. Director Marc Forster brings his viewership right into the mix. In 3D, zombies are falling straight from their body chain-gangs and are headed right for you. Meanwhile, the volume, engaged acting and pleasurable script leaves us wishing the 116-minute runtime didn’t fly by so quickly.
The script, loosely based off of a novel of the same name, centers around rugged former UN employee, Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt, “Killing them Softly”), as he attempts to mingle back into civilian life. Ah, but how plans don’t always work out as planned. Driving through Philadelphia with his wife Karin (Mireille Enos, “Gangster Squad”) and daughters (Abigail Hargrove and Sterling Jerins), uneasiness spreads as a routine traffic slowdown turns into a zombie feeding frenzy. Barely escaping with their lives, the Lanes exit the city in a confiscated RV and roll into Newark, which is dealing with similar circumstances.
Membership has its privileges; Gerry’s former standing with the U.N. allows for a high-priority extraction of him and his family, arranged by the Deputy Secretary General of the U.N., Thierry (Fana Mokoena, “Machine Gun Preacher”). Hundreds of miles off the coast of New York City, a battleship has become the world’s command center, with everyone on board being purely essential personnel. Reluctantly, Gerry takes a mission to accompany virologist Dr. Fassbach (Elyes Gabel, “Welcome to the Punch”) to Camp Humphreys, South Korea to recover a week-old memo that mentioned an encounter with “zombies.”
Even the well-armed military couldn’t hold back the hordes of undead (they’re awfully fast and behave as a single unit) though, so Lane and team high-tail it to Israel as it’s hinted that they may have found an answer there. Will Lane be able to find an antidote to the virus or pathogen that is spreading, as he engages on his global goose-chase? Will he be able to reunite with his family as they’ve been deemed “non-essential” aboard the U.N. ship (because you know it’s all about maintaining the family unit)?
Throughout World War Z, Pitt does not get a chance to exemplify his acting skills, per se, but for an action-packed, pressure-cooker type film, he was the right man for the job. With a look of a brutish savior, he effectively captures the film’s edgy persona. The direction too, is quite noteworthy. There’s not a second that elapses where it seems a scene is misplaced or the actors aren’t fully engaged (a scene aboard a Belarus Airline plane is quite memorable). But the most praise, however, goes to cinematographer Ben Seresin and the visual effects teams, who helped to successfully create the most enticing zombie films in years. Their zombies look frighteningly genuine and the landscape is eerily effective.
This brings about a catharsis of sorts. I, for one, was hoping the zombie apocalypse movie had all but run its course, but World War Z has shown there is still exciting life to breathe into the undead. Oh, and on another note, I’m also okay with Brad Pitt shouldering the load to ensure humanity’s survival.