Let me just state for the record, I am not a movie critic, I am a movie fan. As long as I don’t feel like I’m being duped, I will usually like something about most of the movies I watch. I can watch high-level, upper-echelon and Academy Award nominated horror films like, The Sixth Sense and enjoy it. I can watch a low B-horror flick like, C.H.U.D. and enjoy it. It doesn’t take much; if a director makes a good honest effort, offers some concepts and ideas I have not seen, has some decent character development and natural feeling dialogue, I will go for the ride and accept it. Now on to the review of World War Z.
This is not a traditional zombie film. It deals with the much bigger picture of a world-wide outbreak and how the actions of one man can bring about a survival mechanism. It does not have the gore that accompanies most walking dead films. That would often bother me as a horror fan, but for this film it does not. What new effects gag could they even apply that we haven’t seen already?
The film jumps right into the action and is fast-paced, but we also get excellent character development within the context of that action.
Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is ex-military personnel and United Nations Specialist who resigned for the sake of his wife and young children. They get stuck in Philadelphia cross-town traffic but it soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary traffic jam. They are instantly on the run as the city falls into chaos and the dead rise to kill. Gerry makes contact with an associate, the acting US Secretary of State, hoping to be rescued from the melee. The family makes their way to Newark, looking for a place that hasn’t been overrun and to collect some basic necessities, just as the citizens begin to turn. There are some tense moments in the apartment building as they find their way to the roof for the helicopter pick up.
The Secretary of State convinces Gerry to go on a mission with a young scientist and a military team, in order to hunt down the origin of the outbreak, and to identify and develop a vaccine. From there, it’s an action-filled, thriller-style; jump from city to city, as the world crumbles around the team. Clues are picked up along the way and the final answer lies in a lab of the World Health Organization. However the lab is overrun with zombies, to make for some creepy, close-quarters suspense in the final scenes of the film.
In the right hands, CGI is not an eyesore but enhances big scenes that could not have been shown otherwise. When the zombies climb upon each other to the top of the wall, we know it is CG, but it looked real enough to me, not like cheap CG layered on top of a film image. Gerry Lane does not become the unstoppable Zombie-slayer as would be predictable in a film like this. He is a different kind of hero, one that relies on his intelligence and intellect over the mindless hordes attacking the human race. This aspect is not going to be agreeable to everyone that has come to expect certain things from a zombie film.
Bottom line is, I went into this film expecting a big summer blockbuster style movie and that is exactly what I got. It was exciting, fast-paced, filled with action, well-written and well-acted. I was not expecting a big screen version of ‘The Walking Dead’ or a full-on gory, ‘Dawn of the Dead’ style zombie flick. Summer blockbusters are meant to be visual roller-coaster rides of excitement and that is exactly what I got. It will never be on my list for favorite zombie movies, but it was well worth my $12!
I just wanted to add, having a Zombie subject film as a huge summer blockbuster may be the tipping point in the recent zombie culture popularity. Has the iconic Zombie reached its pinnacle?
related article: The History of Zombies in Film