Directed by Marc Forster. 116 mins.
Worth my time? Yes. (Seen for free at AMC Promenade 16)
Considering that its production was plagued with more clusterfucks than Heaven’s Gate, I’m struck that World War Z is anywhere near as good as it is. The movie isn’t great, and there’s plenty for zombie nerds to nitpick, but it’s a solid, genuinely creepy afternoon diversion.
Brad Pitt reminds us that he’s the most consistently good American A-list actor of his generation. Nic Cage and Tom Cruise have had higher peaks in their filmography, but at this point, they’re just too goddamn distracting onscreen (especially Cage). Pitt, on the other hand, can still disappear into a believable everyman as he demonstrated in The Tree of Life a couple of years back. Pitt’s protagonist in WWZ isn’t the most interesting character, but he’s sufficient. Plus, his wife (Mireille Enos of Big Love and The Killing) actually looks within his age range.
The main attraction here is the situation, not the character. The first two acts do a great job of showing civilization collapse in a matter of hours. Pitt goes from Philadelphia (why do zombie movies always start in Pennsylvania?) to Newark (which doesn’t look much worse than it does in real life) to the Korean Peninsula (the North Korean solution to the zombie problem is eerily plausible) to Jerusalem (where the Israelis are putting their 65 years of constant vigilance to good use). For a relatively short film, Marc Forster and his army of screenwriters did a bang-up job of showing the global scale of the outbreak.
The third act, unfortunately, reeks of oh-shit-how-do-we-finish-thisness. After having relative success by keeping the chaos in large environments, the film confines itself to the Hive of Resident Evil. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but it’s a big (although not unexpected) bummer.
Some folks might piss and moan over the lack of gore (a PG-13 film about humanity’s violent end does seem a tad odd), but I got used to it. Also, why should gore be the fulcrum on which a zombie flick balances? George A. Romero has made three super-gory films since 2005, and they all suck. I actually found the absence of F-bombs to be the worst consequence of WWZ’s rating. Come on, now – people would be cussing up a fuckin’ storm in this kind of setting.
– Aside: Did anyone notice the implication that Israel’s downfall comes, in part, from being peaceful and diplomatic toward their Palestinian and Arab neighbors?
– Aside: David Morse is onscreen for maybe two minutes, but he absolutely steals this movie. You can also catch Morse and Pitt in 12 Monkeys, another apocalypse thriller.
(Seen and originally written on 2013-06-26)