Friday, June 28, 2013

World War Z Review

I didn’t have much confidence in World War Z.  The project was plagued with issues: police confiscating actual rifles that were found on set, ballooning production costs, myriad re-shoots, and an incomplete third act.  My adoration for lead Brad Pitt wasn’t enough to make me more than wary about the final product.  It turns out that any and all trepidation I had was for naught; World War Z is a terrifying, thrilling, exciting zombie action film that is quite good.

Let’s address the “Z” word right off the bat.  I suppose technically the creatures featured in the film are just “infected” and not “zombies” per se, but I’m going to call them that anyway (the film does so as well for the most part).  I’m not here to argue the definition of “zombie.”  Ultimately it doesn’t matter because they’re not real, but most people would classify zombies as being relatively slow and decrepit.  What permeates WWZ is the complete opposite; these zombies are FAST…VERY FAST.  And they’ll dive-tackle their prey like a football player on massive steroids.  As can be seen in the trailers, they can act in a massive swarm, piling over each other like a human wave or forming a tower like the fire ants in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  It’s utterly and completely insane.  And VERY terrifying.  Whether or not the CGI swarms work for you, the image is horrifying and one that’ll shake you to your core.

Considering that this film is rated PG-13 there is very little blood or gore on screen.  Because of this, we don’t get to see gruesome zombie kills and attacks as in AMC’s The Walking Dead.  We see people get tackled and attacked and then violently turn (this isn’t just the normal “person dies from a fever and then wakes back up”…when someone turns it is within seconds and they’re body contorts violently accompanied with torturous screams), just sans blood.  To be honest the lack of blood was noticeable but it didn’t really bother me all that much.  Sometimes what you can’t see is more disturbing than what you can see, and in some instances this works out pretty well.

I’ve never read the book upon which this movie is based (although I have read Max Brook’s other zombie book, “The Zombie Survival Guide,” which is pretty fantastic), so I cannot provide insight on how it stands up (although I am aware that the film has very little to do with the content of the book).  Gerry (Brad Pitt) is a former UN investigator who’s been to some of the worst places on Earth.  Quite early in the film he and his family get caught up in what becomes a world-wide pandemic of flesh-craving, sprinting zombies.  They make it from Philadelphia to Newark, New Jersey and must survive until a UN rescue helicopter can get to them.  Gerry is one of the last people on the planet that can help figure out how to combat this sickness.  He’s sent with a small team of Navy SEALs and one of the world’s leading viral researchers across the globe to find patient zero – the one who started it all.  From there the film hops from location to location across the planet, with Gerry in constant danger, having to piece together the puzzle that is this viral outbreak.

What I appreciated most about World War Z is the film’s originality.  I won’t spoil the specifics, but there were multiple things in the film that I had never seen before in a zombie movie.  To go along with this idea, the characters, for the most part, are quite smart and the decisions they make make sense (which doesn’t happen often in films of this nature)…save for one side character who is infuriatingly clumsy.  I must also commend the film’s finale; much ado was made about Damon Lindelof being brought in to pen the third act, but I felt that what he brought to the table in terms of the final set-piece was fantastic.  The end is sort of an anti-climax, which upon my initial viewing left me a bit let down…but after a second viewing and some time I’ve learned to appreciate what they were going for.  This isn’t a normal summer tent-pole film with a bombastic, over-the-top action finale.  In the world that was built, with the characters we’ve come to know, something of that nature just wasn’t possible.  The finale introduces a concept that I’ve never seen before in a zombie film and allows for a potential sequel down the road.

While World War Z gets a lot right, there are a few bumps in the road.  Much of the action takes place close to the camera, with director Marc Forster using his Quantum of Solace shaky-cam all too much.  I assume this was done to hide any potential blood, gore, and violence (a la The Hunger Games) but it was still hard to follow the action and figure out what was happening.  There are two plotlines that were all but dropped by the end of the film; the situation with Gerry’s family and a small boy that they took under their protection while in Newark.  While the family stuff comes back by the end, they’re missing from the entire third act of the film.  Just a scene or two with us checking in with them would’ve been quite helpful in reminding us what Gerry’s fighting for.

World War Z is probably the biggest surprise for me so far this year in terms of just blowing any and all expectations out of the water.  I went in expecting a mess of a zombie film, but what I saw was a quite competent, thrilling, scary and incredibly entertaining action film that left me wanting more.  There is just so much to love about the film and so little to hate that I have to whole-heartedly recommend it.  In a summer filled with bombastic action films, WWZ is a nice change of pace…mainly due to its unique finale.

World War Z is an intense, thrilling, and action-packed zombie-apocalypse film that’s just damn good.

The Bearded Bullet

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