By Laurie Coker
Admittedly, when I first saw a trailer for Brad Pitt’s new film World War Z, I was skeptical at best, worried this might be Pitt’s equivalent to Water World. Since zombie films don’t top my list, Pitt’s newest movie had at least two strikes against it, before I even entered the screening. Although it is riddled with as many holes as a room in a gun fight, World War Z is an intense, heart-pumping epic of apocalyptic proportion. With Pitt as a leading man and director Marc Forester working his magic, we can forgive almost all of the film’s flagrant flaws.
Almost from the onset, Forester fills his film, based on a novel by Max Brooks, assails the audiences with amazing action and imagery. First, however, we meet Gerry and Karin Lane (Mireille Enos) and their two precious daughters and get a hint at dad’s former job – something extremely dangerous – although now he spends his days as a stay at home father. Hardly five minutes into the film, Forester heaves us head on into action and the undead. Just after the family lands in Philadelphia gridlock, helicopters hover above, an explosion erupts in the distance, a huge truck careens out of control, citizens stampede and Gerry jumps into trouble-shooting mode, instinctually moving his family to safety. He past job as a UN-problem-solver helps Gerry get his family (and a boy whose parents help the Lanes) safely aboard a Navy ship off the coast of NY, but Gerry must return to the field or he and his family will be sent back to face the horrors.
Pitt has always had the ideal leading man quality, and here he plays concerned father and determined hero to perfection. As he nears fifty (December 18th this year), Pitt’s weathered, yet strikingly handsome features make him both paternally warm and heroically dynamic. The cast surrounding him excels too, but it is Pitt who carries the film past its foibles. We believe in Gerry and rally behind him as he surmounts obstacles – like wall high mounds of clambering zombies and the mystery of their source.
Credit must be given to screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof for crafting super suspenseful and increasingly intense and perilous situations in which to place their protagonist. Rarely do I feel, even flinch in films like this, which too often lean to gore and not surprise, but Forester and crew had me nearly nail biting – all quite surprising especially given the PG-13 rating. Forester never loses the tension necessary in this genre. World War Z isn’t about simply slaying zombies, but about science and about human beings working together to find a solution beyond survival and shooting the undead in the head – much like the film 28 Days Later.
Visually the film keeps pace and the 3D aspects made some tense moments utterly unnerving, sending me back in my seat a bit when creatures shot off the screen and into our faces. War World Z’s special effects team have created substantially creepy zombies, with taut, grey skin, lifeless, silver eyes and this intimidating teeth clicking noise that sends chills. I am placing a B+ in my grade book. World War Z is wholly entertaining and while it is riddled with continuity and plausibility problems and is certainly not the quintessential zombie film, it does please!