By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
When a film gets delayed for rewrites and re-shoots, it becomes difficult to not lower one’s expectations. With World War Z, it didn’t help that friends, who have read the novel on which it is based, kept telling me that the trailers indicated that the movie looks totally different from the book. In fact the night before the screening one of my critic colleagues described in greater detail what the book is like. His synopsis actually sounds way more fascinating, interesting and epic compared to the film I was expecting. Nevertheless, I entered the screening with an open mind and left pleasantly surprised. The film titled World War Z may have strayed far from its literary roots, but still delivers a thrilling and tense ride that I actually enjoyed.
Brad Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a former employee of the United Nations who has adopted a new life as a stay-at-home husband and dad. On one fateful day, an infectious disease, which turns people into zombies, arrives in the U.S. and quickly spreads forcing people to evacuate their homes and cities. Lane is quickly called back into duty by his ex-boss Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena) to travel across the world to help discover the cause of the pandemic and develop a cure.
Director Marc Forster who has been deservedly panned for his poor action direction in the James Bond installment Quantum of Solace, actually achieves some redemption with the action sequences in WWZ. The film as a whole, however, never truly embraces a horror or action label, but actually is more of a suspense/thriller. Yes, the film has zombies, and down right creepy ones too, but this element of the story never gets as shocking or gory as most zombie flicks. This may not appease fans of that genre, but I didn’t mind it much. Often times, it is more frightening to imply horrific events than to actually display it indulgently. The film entertains and works when it is at its most tense, delivering some lovely edge-of-the-seat sequences that could make the most unflappable cynic sweat in his seat.
The script by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindeloff does have its flaws and issues. A quirky, interesting and potentially entertaining character gets an introduction only to be quickly eliminated. A whole entire sequence of events occurs, but basically serves no purpose other than to fill time. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t run on too long, but it does make me wonder if the script ran a bit short at first, so the writers padded their film with a squandered character and sequence. The film hits a few dead ends before it really reaches its stride and gets engrossing. The finale does leave a bit to be desired, but it does feel like the producers wanted to leave it somewhat open for a possible sequel.
As for the characters, only a few of the supporting roles really stand out as memorable. James Badge Dale makes a badass impression as Captain Speke, a tough-as-nails warrior who lives to kill and would rather die than become a zombie. Elyes Gabel also makes a memorable appearance as Fassbach, an expert virologist assigned to help with the disease research. Lovely Israeli actress Daniela Kertesz also stars as the courageous Israel soldier Segen, someone who owes her life to Lane and accompanies him during the rest of his journey. Though the film does have its fine supporting performances and cool cameos, the film belongs to Pitt who really carries the film. He perfectly nails the character of Gerry Lane, a loving father and husband, but also a man with a “specific set of skills”. Lane is a man whose world weary smarts and gutsy decisions make for an intriguing character and protagonist.
Now as for the fact that the producers want to call this movie an adaptation of Max Brooks’ novel of the same name, I know a few fans who would probably beg to differ with this loose interpretation of the term. I’m sure they will call this a ridiculously loose adaptation of their beloved book. Still, regardless of this issue and a few other problems, there’s no denying that the film does deliver thrilling entertainment of the popcorn chomping variety and will probably appease those who have never read the book. The film is rated PG-13 and is therefore, a zombie-lite movie, but I still wouldn’t recommend bringing children under the age of 12. The film has enough creepy moments to give the kids and more sensitive adults nightmares. If one does have some time on an afternoon to take in an exciting and suspenseful film, I’d recommend watching this one.