World War Z Review


World War Z doesn’t add anything new to the realm of zombie movies, but it’s filled with so much chaotic tension that I couldn’t help but admire it. Directed by Marc Forster and based on Max Brook’s best-selling novel, World War Z shares as much with the post-apocalyptic action flick (like War or the Worlds) as it does with something like 28 Days Later. And while Forster’s signature quick editing and frenetic pacing derailed his last action movie, Quantum of Solace, they make sense when serving this every-man-for-himself, end-of-the-world thriller.

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is our protagonist. A husband and father of two girls, Gerry recently stepped away from an incredibly successful career as a field agent for the United Nations to spend more time with his family. It won’t be long before work pulls them apart again, however. A bizarre and inexplicable pathogen of sorts is turning millions of people into ravenous, difficult-to-kill cannibals. Gerry manages to secure a helicopter out of Newark that takes him to a secure location aboard an aircraft carrier, but his and his family’s safekeeping doesn’t come without a price. His former boss asks Gerry to go into the field to help a young doctor locate “Patient Zero.” If they can find out how this all started, they think they can come up with a cure.

We follow Gerry to South Korea, Israel, and finally, Wales in a series of mostly impressive, if a little repetitive, set pieces. The conclusion itself is truncated to the point of being ineffective, but the sequence preceding it—which sees Gerry sneaking around a zombie-infected WHO outpost—will leave you breathless throughout. It’s just around this point that Gerry and his few companions nearly know enough to outsmart the undead, but they’re still taking big risks, and the knowledge gap between what they know and what they think they know is where the film derives its tension.

Of course, Forster’s directorial style helps add to that tension. During the film’s quieter expository scenes, he thankfully keeps his camera still. When chaos reigns supreme, however, we’re in the thick of it, and every action-packed frame feels that way. The credited cinematographer is Ben Seresin, who’s best known for working on some Michael Bay movies, and while the hectic editing choices don’t give him many opportunities to shine, his colorful images give each location some much-needed variation.

Pitt is the only actor with considerable screen time. He’s fine in the generic hero role. And the zombies look menacing, but in the Israel scenes in particular, the special effects are disappointing. Watching them pile on top of one another by the hundreds to scale a giant wall (you’ve seen it in the trailers) feels and looks cartoonish and takes you out of the moment.

Its familiarity and occasional effects problems aside, World War Z is a pretty terrific flick. If zombies are your thing, you’ll eat this one up. And even if they aren’t (they certainly aren’t for me), the suspense you’ll experience watching this film makes it one worthy of your time.

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