US | 2013 | Directed by Marc Forster
Logline: A United Nations pandemic expert travels across several countries in a desperate search for the origin of, and a possible cure to, a zombie plague that is rapidly decimating the world’s population.
Based on the novel by Max Brooks, written as an “oral history” (rather than a traditional narrative it is compiled of individual accounts, giving the science/horror fiction a sense of urgency and docu-drama realism) and inspired by the oral history book on WWII by Studs Terkel and the zombie movies of George Romero, World War Z is a curious apocalypse movie.
Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane the central figure, although the novel has no lead characters. It is his journey and plight the movie’s narrative is hitched to. Lane’s enjoying a little family time when the zombie nightmare hits Philly, and before you can say “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick …” there’s undead chaos on the streets. Lane and family are whisked off a building top and onto an aircraft carrier. Lane is briefed and set into United Nations duty motion.
Despite Max Brooks’ nod to Romero’s zombie carnage Forster’s movie is virtually bloodless. It certainly has no gore whatsoever. It has been deliberately directed to avoid any such grue, rather than being cut by censors to avoid an adult rating. The screenplay has had several cooks stirring the spoon, and critics and audiences were being warned another Heaven’s Gate was on the cards. Truth be told, WWZ is a very solid picture.
Don’t go in expecting your typical zombie gut-crunching mayhem. WWZ is closer in its apocalyptic rage to 28 Weeks Later, sans entrails. Forster has fashioned a tense and fast-paced nightmare thriller with some great set pieces, including a superb airborne sequence. The large-scale scenes of zombie craziness are over-the-top, but staged very effectively.
Brad Pitt is, well, Brad Pitt, but it works for the movie. My biggest gripe was that despite maintaining a sense of realism throughout the movie, when Lane is forced to amputate a soldier colleague’s hand there is no bloodshed. The DIY operation is implausibly clean and free of the huge trauma it would induce in the soldier, especially when Lane then cauterizes the huge wound. This big slip really grated on me, but it wasn’t enough to ruin the movie.