- Movie Rating -

World War Z (2013)

| June 20, 2013 | 0 Comments

If the potential exists for a thinking-man’s zombie movie, then “World War Z” is probably about as close as you are likely to get.  Here is a movie that tries to one-up the zombie genre by turning up the juice and passing itself off as an epic.  It doesn’t entirely succeed, but what it does, it does very well.  Somewhere between grand special effects are characters smarter than the plot probably allows them to be, but this isn’t a character study, it’s a well-made disaster movie.  Irwin Allen couldn’t have made it better.

“World War Z” is lean on plot, heavy on action and lays out an apocalyptic scenario with the grandest of production values – every single dollar of the film’s $170 million budget is there on the screen.  The scenario is known by anyone following the trailers, the TV ads or who might have dug into Max Brooks’ epic 2005 novel.  If you’re still blind to this plot, stop reading now.

Where the book was a narrative that was told in personal logs, the movie is a straight-forward action picture.  It opens brilliantly with ominous news footage over the opening credits, saddled with a theme that reminds us of Tubular Bells, that bone-chilling theme from “The Exorcist.”  Somewhere in the flurry of news footage are some snatches of information about an epidemic, but you have to listen to catch it. It’s probably important because some districts have declared martial law.  Something is happening, the world is going topsy-turvy and what lies on the horizon will cause nothing less than an extinction level event.  News of the threat doesn’t seem to have affected the household of The Lane Family where everyone is happy and smiling in their sun-splashed kitchen.  Dad is Gerry (Brad Pitt), a former U.N. investigator; his wife is Karin (Mireille Enos) and they have two precious daughters.

No sooner do we meet the Lane family then the world goes completely to Hell.  If you’ve seen “28 Days Later” or “Zombieland” or “The Walking Dead,” then you pretty much know what is happening here.  People are being bitten by the undead – their bodies contort into a pretzel before they jump up and run at a clip that doesn’t seem quite human.  Whatever is effecting the undead has collapsed their capacity to become winded.  When they scream they sound like a raptor with strep throat.

Gerry seems to have a keen eye for details, noticing things in the midst of the ravaging cannibal invasion that others seem to miss.  As the undead hoards pour over the population, he stays one step ahead, trying to get somewhere, anywhere that can give him some answers on how to stop this thing.  In that, “World War Z” becomes one of those Gotta-Get-There movies in which a character must get from one location to another without getting killed.  That means that every location that Gerry visits becomes infected by the ravages of zombie attacks – up to and including an airborne jetliner, Philadelphia, Korea and Israel.  No place is safe.

Where “World War Z” succeeds is in the production values.  The movie feels very real and not just like a CGI sideshow – there are moments when we feel as if we are there.  This is a movie that has been crafted on the technical level with loving care so that, subconsciously, we don’t feel at a distance from what is happening.  Giving the movie a realistic feel is a smart idea because when the zombies begin their attack it makes things just a little more plausible, even while the movie asks you to believe that zombies could scale a 200 foot wall like an ant colony.

Where it fail is in it’s basic construct.  This is a zombie movie, but the characters and situations are so generic that the movie could be about anything.  It could be about a deadly disease or a forest fire or a tsunami.  You could easily replace the zombies with vampires or werewolves.  There’s really nothing to distinguish it from any other deadly situation.  “World War Z” is a movie that, for all its grand production and ominous tones, turns out to be just an exceedingly well-made disaster movie.  It doesn’t break any new ground but it looks good, it moves at a good pace, and on that basis it gets the job done.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2013) View IMDB Filed in: Drama, Horror, Thriller