Never in a million years did I expect to enjoy "World War Z" as much as I did! Normally, I detest films about zombies, unless they are hysterical like "Shaun of the Dead" or sweet like "Warm Bodies". But I was complettely riveted --- and thoroughly entertained.
Based on the book by Max Brooks, though it's directed by Marc Forster ("Quantum of Solace", 2008 and "Finding Neverland", 2004), you can tell this is Brad Pitt's "baby" all the way. In case you've been living on the South Pole for a few years, Pitt stars in this uber-fast-paced thriller, as well as functioning as one of the producers.
He plays Gerry lane, an ex-United Nations investigator who is now devoted to spending more time with his wife, Karen (Mireille Enos) and their two daughters, Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) and Constance (Sterling Jerins).
On their routine drive into Philadelphia, the family is caught in a traffic jam which quickly evolves into panic-driven chaos. Gerry contacts his old boss from the U.N., Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena), who informs him of the same dire situations all over the world, and that he is sending a helicopter for Gerry and his family.
However, in the meantime, Gerry must keep everyone safe from rabid zombies, who are savagely attacking and biting every living thing in sight. They are taken in by an Hispanic couple, who speak no English, and their son, Tomas (Fabrizio Zacharee Guido). Gerry explains that movement is life, but the couple refuses to leave their apartment, with tragic results. But Tomas manages to escape and he is instantly "adopted" by Gerry and Karen, and taken to safety aboard a Navy carrier 200 miles off the U.S. coast in the Atlantic Ocean.
Gerry is pressed into service again by Thierry, or Karen and the kids will be forced off the ship. He is flown off to North Korea with a young, idealistic doctor from Harvard to attempt to locate the origin of this horrific pandemic. That doesn't exactly work out as planned, then it's off to Israel, which has, so far, managed to remain unaffected.
The action in "World War Z" is extremely intense and the zombies are truly terrifying. I haven't been this squeamish at a movie in a very long time. It's an edge-of-your-seat thriller that doesn't let up. It's not perfect --- there are a few flaws, one involving the location of the WHO facility in Cardiff, Wales, but, hey --- nothing is 100% unblemished.
And, no matter what Pitt tries to do, he'll always be criticized. People are just jealous. The man can act, and he's totally believable. There isn't much room for sentiment, because people are changing into the undead at an alarming rate, but Gerry manages a very sincere goodbye with Karen and the children. It's brief but moving.
The other outstanding performance comes from an Israeli actress, Daniella Kertesz, who plays Segen, an Israeli Lieutenant assigned to get Gerry out of her country. This is her first film and she's phenomenal.
Smirk, if you must, but believe me, WWZ is a wild ride. The CGI, make-up, stunts and choreography of all the walking zombies are carefully orchestrated by Forster, with help from Production Designer Nigel Phelps and Editor Roger Barton. This is serious zombie business, now get to a theater and enjoy it!
Opinion: See It Now!
Brad Pitt is smart enough NOT to risk a giant black eye on his career with a hokey zombie movie. With "World War Z" he has achieved quite the opposite. This apocalyptic take on Max Brooks' novel is mesmerizing, scary, thoughtful, stylish and beautifully conceived. And it also makes the most of 3-D technology with exciting aerial shots --- how refreshing!
United Nations former employee Gerry Lane (Pitt), along with his wife, Karen (Mireille Enos) and their two young daughters, is enjoying a quiet game of "20 Questions" in the family car as they drive in Philadelphia. Suddenly, panic erupts in the streets, with people running amok, random explosions galore, and general chaos. What is happening? It's a terrifying opening sequence, one of many in the film that will have moviegoers glued to their seats, and talking amongst themselves long after the film has ended.
Soon after the scary beginning, Lane is beseeched by his ex-boss, a top ranking UN official, Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena), to help determine why ordinary people have been turned into zombies who are threatening to take over the planet. These are not your father's zombies, though. The creations of George Romero ("Night of the Living Dead") were slow-moving, methodical creatures who were certainly horrifying in their time. But the zombies of "World War Z" are infected with an unknown substance. They are wild freaks who run at full speed, often blindly, into walls and other objects, as they attack normal people. Their rabid bites on exposed limbs can turn a human into a walking undead in seconds.
The CG effects of the zombies scaling high walls, to gain access to people in protected areas, are strangely fascinating. We've all seen animal stampedes recreated via CG, so why not humans? It's a startling effect that is repeated several times in the movie.
Yet it is the quieter moments that define "World War Z" as a satisfying horror film.
When Lane ultimately reaches a sprawling facility of the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) in Wales, he and a couple of brave scientists risk their lives to gain access to medications that could provide camouflage, thus avoiding attacks by zombies already trapped in the building.
Israeli-born actress Daniella Kertesz plays an Israeli soldier who teams up with Lane. It's a seamless sequence in the film that goes on for quite a while. It is extremely well orchestrated, creating tension and an unpredictable conclusion. And the understated, superb performance by Michael Jenn as the ferocious, teeth-chattering lab zombie at W.H.O. is critical to the entire scene.
Marc Forster ("Monster's Ball", "Finding Neverland", "Quantum of Solace") directs from screenplays by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Drew Goddard. "World War Z" is not a perfect film. There are moments that stretch credibility, but given its high entertainment value, we can overlook those miniscule shortcomings.
Opinion: See It Now!