Brad Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a former United Nations investigator, and leader of several small tactical forces, who is now retired from that line of work and attempting to enjoy a quiet life with his growing family when, you guessed it, the mother-trucking zombie apocalypse happens, again. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching movies such as this, is that in case of a zombie outbreak you want to have a job and a skill set that will help you survive and be useful in the aftermath of this new chaotic world. However, that being said, you don’t want to have too useful a skill set, lest you become anointed as “the one” who must single handedly find the cure for this entire mess. In instances such as this, a little responsibility can go a long way. As soon as the outbreak begins Lane gets a call from his former boss, who promises to secure his family on a top secret naval ship in return for his assistance in leading a team of soldiers and experts to the base in Korea where the contamination first occurred. This begins a journey that will take them plane hopping to several different locations such as Israel, and Nova Scotia to name a few as they try to stay a step ahead of these faster than average zombies and also giving the movie a chance to flex its budgetary muscles in the process.
World War Z is a much better movie than I’m going to give it credit for, although I am going to try to give it as much credit as possible mind you. It of course suffers from Zombie Fatigue. We live in an age of what could be labeled as an undead renaissance. It seems ever since the remake of Dawn of the Dead, and the great 28 Days Later from about a decade ago now, that there’s been at least one or two zombie movies released every year. And indeed there’s been some great ones and some not so great ones as well. We’ve had the entire Resident Evil series, a hit zombie TV show with The Walking Dead. And we’ve even had comedies such as Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, and even a romantic comedy for Pete’s sake with last year’s Warm Bodies. So with that all established a straight forward zombie disaster movie such as World War Z, much like the zombie’s contained within it had an unfair uphill climb to make. That being said, as far as zombie movies go this one is among the better ones you will find.
The gigantic budget is on display here in many scenes that span the entire globe showing infected people running amuck and thoroughly laying waste to large population centers. This movie does as good as or better of a job than any other zombie movie I’ve ever seen as far as displaying the scope of what a large scale outbreak would look like. If this exact same movie had been made at the beginning of the zombie renaissance I think it would be hailed as much more of a great piece of cinema than it will being released now. This is the large scale zombie action epic that people have been waiting for, for a long time now. It is in this respect the exact opposite of a movie like the aforementioned 28 Days Later which pretty much skipped the initial outbreak and instead showed you the deserted aftermath in which there were very few people left. There are plenty of people on display here. I can only imagine what the budget was for extras alone, unless they worked for free that is.
While I’m comparing World War Z to other movies of this genre, I found it kind of interesting, and amusing that in I Am Legend, a movie with more than a few similarities to this one especially in regards to the job descriptions of the two main characters, it takes Will Smith’s character years and years of painful trial and error and repeated research to discover a cure to that movie’s zombie /vampire (as conveniently in that movie, their zombies can only go out at night) epidemic while in this movie Brad Pitt’s character pretty much stumbles upon a cure through the lucky happenstance of a few pieces of well placed dialogue throughout the movie, in just a matter of a couple days. Without spoiling what that cure is, or if it works in the end, I will just say that of all the potential zombie outbreaks that have been put forth in the movies this one has one of the easiest weaknesses to exploit. Of course it makes up for this by having some of the most athletic zombies you’ll ever see. These zombies are not the slow staggering pieces of rotting flesh you find in most movies. They can run, jump, and as shown in the previews, use each other to scale up large walls and buildings in much the same way a large group of ants would do. As a visual image, that is among the most arresting and aesthetically original I’ve seen in this genre of film.
It may indeed be unfair to keep up with these continual comparisons, but I found it impossible to watch this movie without having all of those movies come to mind time and time again. This era of zombie movies provides the context through which I have been conditioned to watch movies such as this. That being said, I was really rather pleased with how straight forward and effective this movie was. As tired an idea of a zombie outbreak is at this point, this movie executed all the basics faithfully and put enough of a spin on it to keep things interesting. You couldn’t ask for a stronger leading man than Brad Pitt here who has that great combination of action hero masculinity and that more sensitive vulnerability that actually allows you to care about him and his character. I read that Brad Pitt got this role as a result of a bidding war between his agents and the agents of Leonardo DiCaprio. Leonardo would have also been perfectly fine in this role I believe, and also would have satisfied both of the aforementioned qualities that Pitt has, although I think Pitt is a bit stronger of a choice in terms of an action hero, so with that in mind, the better man for the role won out there.
The film is very straight forward and direct with its story-telling, without resorting to a lot of flashbacks and whatnot, except a few here and there for continuity. We see the outbreak happen; we follow the main character as he fights to stop it, going from one location to another, and occasionally touching base with his family via telephone so that the movie stays tethered with a more immediate dramatic story aside from the large sprawling that takes up the main premise. As said, it’s from a story point anyway, a very bare bones kind of zombie movie, but what it lacks in creativity in that department it more than makes up for it in well executed action scenes and just the overall epic scale of the movie. All in World War Z doesn’t exactly re-invent the wheel; it just makes a much, much bigger wheel. And speaking solely for myself, I found the spectacle of that anyway, to be highly engrossing. So to conclude this review, if you’re looking for a good epic popcorn flick, with zombies, this is as good a choice as any.
World War Z gets a three out of five: GOOD.