Zombies. They’re everywhere. You’ve seen it before, but not quite in this fashion. Brad Pitt and co. took a familiar foe and breathed some freshness into them. Yes, it’s still shoot them in the head, burn them, leave them. But like most zombie movies, the conflict revolves around a band of members trying to survive and make ends meet amidst the madness. Here, Pitt is driven by the desire to find a cure. He plays former UN agent Gerry Lane, who is renowned in his field. In his heyday, he was the go to guy in the most critical conflicts. It eventually takes a toll on him, and he decides to call it quits so he can become the prototypical father, cooking breakfast for his wife and two daughters.
Our film begins exactly there, with Pitt prepping his daughters for school. The movie wastes no time in raising the central conflict, which is of course an unknown virus sweeping across the world. The movie is based on the 2006 book “World War Z,” by Max Brooks. Although, very loosely, as the film drifts far away from the source material and goes its own way, much to the dismay of hardcore Z fans. The history of this movie is well documented. Pitt’s production company outbid Leonardo Dicaprio’s company for the rights in 2007. After development hell status, production finally began in 2011. Amidst much publicized drama, there were sour feelings between Pitt and Director Forster, and studio concerns about the budget going overboard. It was shot all over the world. It went through numerous script rewrites. When they finished filming in 2012, the entire cast and crew had to come back a month later to shoot new scenes. This led to the studio greatly fearing that this movie would become a flop, and that they’d lose money. So they launched a heavy marketing campaign behind star Pitt. It looks as though it will pay off. I’m sure the 125 million dollar budget will be recouped amidst solid reception.
Back to the film itself, as Pitt and his daughters are on their way to school, mass mayhem unfolds in hometown Philadelphia. People are running amok. No time is wasted in presenting these zombies, and throughout the movie we get to see their grim detail. One of the main complaints among die hard Z fans is the fact that these zombies are fast. They prefer the old school, original Romero type, slow and staggering. There is nothing wrong with the nostalgic approach. It is scary. But these zombies are downright terrifying. There is something about zombies with unlimited sprinters speed, (they aren’t stopping for a breather or some Gatorade). It is essentially against all odds to escape. You feel the anxiety of the characters; feel how long of a shot it would be to get away had this been real. People are ravaged and dominated by these creatures. With your classic zombie, you sort of have your own pace, a strategic plan of attack and movement. Actually, an advantage in comparison with these beasts. With these zombies, everything is out the window. You better pray to God you have Usain Bolt wheels, or are the most deadly accurate, quickest shot in the world. Maybe that’s why zombie enthusiasts don’t like this version of the undead. They love the idea of shacking up and going Rambo on slow walkers, but these new foes mean business. Perhaps that truly frightens them, and puts a damper on their apocalypse fantasies. These zombies are like no other before them, slow or quicker versions from the 28 Days and recent genre entries.
Eventually, Pitt and his family find shelter in an apartment complex, and are rescued by his former UN boss via chopper. They are taken to an aircraft fleet out in the middle of the ocean, where efforts are being made to deal with this worldwide crisis. It is here where Pitt is drawn into the main mission. Find the origin and cure. It is the only way he can protect his family and stop this thing simultaneously. Along with a group of Seals and a young Harvard med student, who is the world’s best hope at a cure, they travel to Korea, where it is believed this disease began. An darkly amusing turn of events follow this young Harvard student, right after he gives an enticing monologue about mother nature as a serial killer. I won’t ruin it for you. During this escapade, a David Morse sighting takes place. As a disgraced CIA agent, he and Pitt convene and settle on the next step. Pitt’s journey now takes him to Jerusalem, where the entire city was walled off and protected ahead of time. This part of the film is visually stunning. There is a shot where Forster has a chopper leaving the fortress to look for uninfected. Here, there is a glimpse of the largest zombie hoard you’ll probably ever see on film. Although digital, it is a sight to see. Due to the fact that these zombies are heavily influenced by sound, they start to engage in a new, exciting act of zombie behavior. They literally race up one another as they climb aboard the walls, breaching the city. When Pitt is forced to escape aboard charter airline, there is another great sequence on this flight involving the undead. The direction of all this is quite impressive. Forster doesn’t let down. The film’s final chapter takes place at a Health Organization. Pitt feels he has found what it takes to fight this outbreak, and eventually stop it. He comes to this realization after piecing together happenings of the film so far. It is also here where the greatest zombie encounters take place. There’s a silent, classcial showdown between Pitt and a ghoul that haunts and resonates the past zombie movies. The ultimate result is another original concept to zombie solutions, per say. Again, I won’t go into detail. But Pitt makes great sacrifices in seeing this theory through, and we end with hope…in more ways than one. (Sequel setup? Shocker)
All in all, this is a very entertaining movie. The zombie genre has been so gassed these last few years, but this is something fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Forster’s direction is smooth in action and storytelling. There is also a nice musical piece througout, which seems to incorporate “Halloween” and “The Exorcist” sounds into one chilling result. Brad Pitt against zombies is almost as good as it gets. But you get a lot more. Unconventional zombies, different point of view character motivations, but still the relevant themes we love in this genre, isolationism, survivalism, etc. Pitt plays his part as best he can in this project. The family man trying to protect his clan, but doing what he must do to save them and mankind in the mix. The other actors fill their roles efficiently, nothing spectacular, but it isn’t a performance movie. It’s action. Zombie action, survival action. World War Z is exactly that. The World being ravished by zombies, only this time, we get to see it everywhere, as opposed to a restricted area and restricted group as is custom.
RATING: 3 stars