I had serious misgivings about World War Z as I entered the theater. I had heard serious negative press leading up to its release and the trailer did the film no favors in my opinion. The trailer made the film out to be Brad Pitt looking suave while running from hordes of cgi zombie things. Brad Pitt still looks suave to be sure, and there are genuine cgi problems in some of the zombie scenes, but imagine my surprise when World War Z ended up being tension filled, anxiety riddled, and an all around excellent experience.
Brad Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, an ex-UN investigator who has given up the job to be a stay at home dad. The early scenes show Pitt at home with his wife, Mireille Enos from The Killing, and two daughters. My only caveat with these scenes is Hollywood’s insistence that when children rush into their parents’ bedroom and wake them up everyone is all smiles. All parents know that children rushing in and jumping on them while they’re asleep does not lead to laughs. All is well until the Lane’s run into a traffic jam on the way to school. The Zombie apocalypse is upon us and chaos engulfs everyone. Gerry leads his family to relative safety while communicating with his old boss at the UN. Apparently UN investigators are big deals because the entire country is bursting at the seams with unbridled hysteria and the UN takes great strides to retrieve Gerry and his family and bring them to safety. At the makeshift UN headquarters stationed off the coast Gerry is apprised of the situation and is enlisted, through possible emotional coercion, to chaperone a young doctor in hopes of finding the origins of the outbreak and ultimately a cure. Thus begins Brad Pitts’s globe trotting adventure.
Zombie movies typically remain in one location with a sense of claustrophobia being one of the principal fear tactics employed. World War Z, however, jumps all over the planet giving a broader sense of how other countries would react to the same circumstances. I do believe that there was a missed opportunity to delve into some of the global affairs as the film merely glosses over any cultural or political ramifications. I have not read the novel by Max Brooks, but I’m told that this is a central theme running throughout. The standout scene for me was Israel which was well handled and contained the strongest of the supporting characters, yet also contained some of the awful cgi that I previously mentioned.
World War Z handles anxiety on both global and personal levels and is interesting to see how the film toggles between the two. Brad Pitt is solid as always and continues to bring resonance to roles that look two dimensional on the surface. The supporting cast is phenomenal and includes James Badge Dale who I have been a fan of since the criminally under watched Rubicon. The director, Marc Forster, who I have not been a fan of in the past, builds mood on top of paranoia and manages to succeed in ways I never would have imagined. World War Z is an excellent film and should be of interest even to those that have no love for the horror genre. This is much more than a zombie story.