Zombies really have been such a big deal in pop culture for many years, at times the market does feel a little saturated. It is hard to pick and chose from what’s on offer, with so many things being very much alike. Fans do pay attention when the sub-genre offers something a little different, with a unique look on this craze. Thankfully to report that World War Z does give us a film that feels fresh, and it’s ideas and manner of execution feels different. This is a film that begins by engaging with its opening, it is an engrossing story of a global outbreak of a disease and then the subsequent mission to find a cure.
To tell this story, we are given a main character with Gerry (Brad Pitt) who is a former employee of the U.N, his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and daughters Constance (Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove). We are seeing these events unfold as they do, at first we are as clueless as they are. The city seems to have gone crazy and it isn’t long before we discover there has been some kind of fast spreading outbreak. The family struggle to find somewhere to keep safe, and as they travel Gerry hears from the U.N who want him to come in. Gerry only agrees so he can keep his family out of harms way, and he’s sent on a mission to try and find where this outbreak started so scientists can work on a cure.
One of the elements that felt very strong was that the film felt realistic in specific ways. It actually really placed this film as much into reality as it could, and part of the fear here is that an audience can picture this happening. The outbreak spreads fast and since it is highly contagious and whom ever gets infected can move around and pass on it quickly, it made sense for it to be fast spreading. They also get the point across of how wide spread the outbreak is, and this is on a global scale and not confined to a small area. This is an event that gets experienced with the film, the film doesn’t start during the zombie apocalypse or after it, it shows its beginnings and how the general public and governments deal with the impending doom.
Zombies have become so popular because they tap into humanities deepest fears, this really rings true with this film. No one wants to be a Zombie, to perish, be mindless, have no self control, lose everything that’s love and cherish. At its most raw, the Zombie itself represents these fears, through our main character these fears are quite present within him. He does not want to lose what he loves (his family) the most, his motivation for going and helping the U.N is all to keep them safe, ensure that they can live. Gerry is a character who wants to stay in control, and he did all he could to keep himself alive. As an epidemic, the Zombies felt like a metaphor for self destruction and the loss of control (on a grand scale), and there is a message of hope placed in for good measure. With the pace at which the Zombies take over, the loss of control is there with the governments and countries and the Zombies are destructive over everything. Hope is a message that comes into play at points, in many forms and it does make us believe in a way that hope can exist even in the most dire of circumstances.
There are some great moments of intensity, white knuckle moments that are edge of the seat suspenseful. The first half of the film is paced extremely well, every scene there has a meaning and a purpose. The bigger scenes flow together really smoothly, their transitioned worked and kept my attention. It is rather great that the film mixes together a number of genres, there’s action, horror, suspense and even drama. Blending these elements together felt natural here, with such a grand story being told keeping it strictly as one thing would not have worked. There is a mass appeal to all sorts of audiences, and while this may not be the goriest film, it wasn’t necessary because the situation was frightening. Good storytelling really guided this adventure, as well as some unexpected surprises.
World War Z does have a few issues, however they were minor and didn’t have a huge impact on the overall appeal of the film. With Gerry there is no real sense of character, other than he is a family man, he might have had a difficult experience with his work with the U.N, he’s very qualified in the job he did and there is a lot of trust in him with those he worked under. But who is he? A little more development would have worked, the connection with him does not hit right away and it should have. The third act of the film felt a little rushed, things happen a little too quickly and it doesn’t feel in the same vein as the rest of the film. Which is a shame because the rest of it is so good, and it just comes off as odd that they didn’t know where to go with it once it reached a certain point.
Brad Pitt is front and center in this film, there are rare moments without him. His performance as Gerry is layered, he does show different sides to him, with the focus being on the family man side. This is the strongest aspect, actor and director felt it was important and it is an element that an audience can find a connection with. Pitt is convincing, the danger of the situation can be felt through his eyes and his strength through his body language. The chemistry he shares with on screen wife Mireille Enos is solid, the connection between the two was there and when they were apart the longing was felt. There are a lot of familiar faces (David Morse, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox) who show up in the film, each actor bringing something interesting to the table even if their role was brief.
Director Marc Foster has a very diverse filmography, capable of doing different genres on small and large scales. This is perhaps his biggest scale yet (bigger than Quantum Of Solace), proving that he was up to the task. The scenes of pure intensity were his best, getting the most out of the moment and actors. This is a big step in the right direction, with a film that is entertaining and extremely riveting. Zombies may be decaying corpses, but here they are a breath of fresh air.