World War Z

© 2013 Ray Wong

Does the world needs another apocalyptic zombie movie, aka Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, The Walking Dead… (and the list goes on).  Apparently, Hollywood thinks so. Granted, World War Z is based on Max (son of Mel) Brooks's phenomenal bestseller that installed many fresh ideas into the genre.

Gerry (Brad Pitt) is an ex-UN special operator who is now a stay-at-home dad with wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and two young daughters. On their way to school and work in Philadelphia, all Hell breaks loose when people start to go crazy with rabies-like symptoms and attack and kill others. Gerry also observes that it takes only 12 seconds for the dead to "turn."

Surviving the disaster is only the beginning. After Gerry and his family are rescued, he is ordered to help an investigating team to try to find out the origin of the outbreak, in hopes of finding a vaccine. Thus starts Gerry's globe-trotting while trying to be one step ahead of the "affected." His journey takes him to North Korea, Jerusalem, and India, but nothing turns up.

Instead Gerry continues to find himself in dangerous situations where human nature is in direct conflict with mother nature, and more and more people are being turned. What Gerry discovers is that the zombies are dormant by nature unless provoked by stimuli such as sound and movement. And one clue after another, Gerry finally realizes the virus's weakness; and with an act of self-sacrifice, Gerry needs to prove himself right once and for all so he can save mankind.

Brad Pitt (The Moneyball) is in fine form. The lines and weathered face of this superstar somehow add charisma and wisdom to the characters he plays, and Pitt's portrayal of Gerry is multi-dimensional and deeply affecting. Mireille Enos (Gangster Squad) is solid as Gerry's determined and resourceful wife. They make a good on-screen team and we believe that they're two loving parents whose top priority is to keep their family safe.

French actress Daniella Kertesz (Loving Anna) impresses as Segen, a soldier whose job is to protect Gerry, and who ends up being part of Gerry's superb companion. The supporting team does great work here all around, including James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3) in an heroic turn as Captain Speke, Matthew Fox (Speed Racer) as a parajumper, and David Morse (The Odd Life of Timothy Green) as a bizarre ex-CIA agent.

Based on Max Brooks's best-selling novel, the script of this new zombie romp is written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goodard, and Lost's Damon Lindelof. The story itself isn't really all that original -- what the writers have brought to the genre is a new twist and a slew of believable characters that focus on one man and his family. Most zombie movies focus on one or two set pieces and a specific location, but World War Z takes us on trip to let us witness the horror on a global scale. The plot opens with the usual mayhem and doom, but quickly turns into one man's quest to find an answer.

Still, one cannot argue that the genre is showing its age and fatigue. Everything does begin to look derivative, no matter how "fresh" the writers want to make it. The idea that zombies move in lightening fast pace and swarm like locusts is interesting and, quite honestly, breathtaking to watch. But everything else does seem to have that "been there, done that" feel.

So it all comes down to the execution. The cast has a done a great job, for sure. Marc Forster's (Quantum of Solace) track record has been spotty. Somehow the idea that Finding Neverland's director is doing a zombie movie is an odd one, but I think Forster rose to the occasion and delivered one hell of a nail-biter. The opening sequence is chaotic, frightening, suspenseful, and powerful. There are some duller moments, of course, but over all the pacing is good. Some of the set pieces are phenomenal to watch, such as one of the most exhilarating plane crashes on screen. Some may argue that the camerawork could be better, but I had no problem with his choices. It adds to the immediacy and urgency of the sequences. It's an exciting movie to watch.

Despite its derivative story and the limitation of the genre itself, World War Z offers something new and fresh, and with its effective cast headed by a strong Brad Pitt, and the capable direction of Marc Forster, it is a movie that is worth watching, even if it doesn't solve any world problems, per se.

Stars: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, David Morse, Matthew Fox, Ludi Boeken
Director: Marc Forster
Writers: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goodard, Damon Lindelof (based on novel by Max Brooks)
Distributor: Paramount
MPAA Rating:  PG-13 for intense frightening sequences, violence and disturbing images
Running Time: 116 minutes


Script - 7
Performance - 8
Direction - 7
Cinematography - 9
Music/Sound - 8
Editing - 7
Production - 9

Total - 7.5 out of 10.0 

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