One glance at Paramount’s World War Z trailer and you know that this zombie film is unlike the movies that built up the sub-genre’s cult status. When I first saw the full theatrical trailer, I was left wondering if a zombie movie can have the same impact as the films that preceded it, but on a grander scale. In short the answer is “No” but what I was surprised to find out, is that the blockbuster makes an unexpected, more significant impact than most zombie films.
World War Z centers on ex UN worker turned stay at home dad Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) as he journeys across the globe to find the origins of a mysterious virus that has civilization essentially attacking itself. The film starts out as an ordinary day and then quickly escalates into zombie nation during a car ride with the family. Although reluctant, because of his circumstances, Gerry is sent back into the field to try and stop the race from taking over nations and different government structures.
Despite its now notorious production issues, that resulted in weeks of re shoots, and saw three scribes being brought on board to re-imagine a new ending, World War Z accomplished what it set out to do. It’s one of the most entertaining and thought-provoking blockbuster films of the summer. What’s intriguing about the film isn’t the zombies but the unique geopolitical warfare that threads into the action-filled flick. Thanks to the loosely based novel by Max Brooks, World War Z along with Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company, was able to cut through the familiar zombie-like structure to reinvent its genre.
There’s no mistaking that this is Brad Pitt’s movie. From the moment the film opens with grainy news reports of animals destroying themselves due to a “rabies-like” virus, it’s obvious that this isn’t a zombie movie that relies heavily on quick scare tactics. Pitt wasn’t immortalized as a hero, but more so as a patient man that fought in the face of grim odds, for what he believed in, which is our freedom. The same impenetrable belief could be said about the actor, who has been involved in films that speak closely to his views, and World War Z isn’t without that element. Pitt was convincing as Gerry, the ex-UN worker trying to find a cure for civilizations breaking point, because the actor had an enormous amount of conviction.
The first half hour of the film is built up with all the excitement that one would expect from this genre, and the 3D surprisingly enhances the moments that make the audience goer jump. The family is on the run for the first act, hopping from state to state in order to escape the chaos that surrounds them. It’s the mass hysteria that’s the most terrifying, because these people, as are most in end-of-days-situations are unsuspecting and ignorant to the imploding world around them. As for the zombies, they aren’t ghoulish in the way I expected them to be, but they’re effective in their own way. Aside from their grunting and stoic movements, these zombies still have human characteristics, which are just as terrifying as the zombie-aspect of their mutation.
The most intriguing part was how the zombies played a role in what was a political-talking piece about today’s society. One visually thrilling scene in Israel helped director Marc Forester tell a more radical narrative. Unlike the United States, Israel literally built a wall to essentially ignore the problems on the other side, ultimately turning their back on the destruction going on around them. Zombies are shown toppling over each other until they can no longer be ignored. This scene alone speaks volumes about a very broken mind-set that can be put to most structures these days.
That said, this is also a film that relies heavy on its blockbuster status, and has plenty of action to enjoy. One adrenaline-pumping scene sees an extremely visceral experience of a zombie attack on a plane. I won’t spoil it for you, as it’s probably the most heightened action you will experience in the film. In terms of its Hollywood conventions, World War Z also has one of the best heroines in the form of Israeli actress Daniella Kertesz, who plays an Israeli soldier going to battle alongside Pitt to stop the invasion. She’s everything you want to see in a female character, especially in a film that’s inevitably meant to highlight a man. Kertesz easily stands, as Pitt’s equal when she’s given the opportunity to.
The other woman in this film is of course Mother Nature itself. It’s repeated over and over again in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that civilization has seriously pissed her off, and the crises is a result of her paying society back. On a surface level, a zombie invasion is a bit far fetched for our reality, but when Pitt says, “We still don’t know what caused this,” and a beat later “We still have time to stop this.” You may still feel compelled to join him on that journey regardless.
WORLD WAR Z IS OUT NOW.