The next world war will not be fought for land, religious beliefs or controversial Eurovision results. No, according to Brad Pitt’s latest apocalyptic-horror-action epic, World War Z, the next global struggle for supremacy will be waged against zombies. Hordes of the buggers.
Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a retired UN worker, who must protect his family when a zombie pandemic breaks out. After barely escaping Philadelphia with the aid of some of his UN colleagues, the Lanes are taken aboard by the US Navy. The disease spreads quicker than Fresher’s flu and before you know it, every corner of the earth has been taken over by Sunday morning Asda staff; some on acid. In order to safeguard his family’s place on the ship, Lane reluctantly agrees to investigate the source of the plague (the characters are reticent about using the term “zombies”), and hopefully find a cure, setting off to Zombieland.
WWZ inventively and successfully overcomes the conundrum, which is scarier: stereotypical, slow-moving Asda zombies (à la Shaun of The Dead) or super agile Olympic athlete zombies (à la 28 Days Later or I Am Legend). The audience gets the best of both worlds. Similarly, the undead creations are a mixture of practical make up effects to preserve the realism and CGI for the more epic zombie-rific set pieces. However, unlike any scariness that I Am Legend lost when the cartoony abominations appeared on screen, the CGI in WWZ allows the terror to reach new heights, and there are few standout shots including some Spider-Man-esque wall scaling and bus toppling (both of which can be seen in the trailer). There are some genuinely frightening moments, made all the more tense by the grounded performance of Pitt and family.
In a rare occurrence, Pitt has moved into the realm of leading action hero in a big budget epic, something that hasn’t really been seen since Mr and Mrs Smith or Troy (more than eight years ago). It’s a good colour on him and like a fine wine, he just gets better with age. I’m not sexually attracted to wine however. He’s 50, but let’s face it, you still would. The rest of the cast are great but very much underused to make way for Pitt and his zombies. Lane’s wife (Mireille Enos – Gangster Squad, TV’s The Killing) and Israeli counterpart (Daniella Kertesz) are particularly good.
WWZ is based on a novel of the same name by Max Brooks and directed by Marc Foster. The director’s most famous high profile release to date, Quantum of Solace, was much maligned, sometimes unfairly. The truth is QoS‘s only true fault was that it’s not as good as Casino Royale. WWZ doesn’t have a predecessor to draw comparisons against. In this way, Foster has free rein and for the most part embellishes in the total OTTness of it all, but doesn’t overlook or sacrifice the more intimate moments with the characters. This gives the audience something to invest in and unlike Resident Evil where the main cast are as a dead as their co-stars, you find yourself rooting for the living. The director appears to have found a genre and scale of film more suited to his talents.
From the opening credits, the pace doesn’t let up until the third act when the film suddenly takes a turn. It’s not that the final is dull per se – it’s still tense and incredibly well shot – but following the film’s epic zombie globe-trotting for the first hour and a half, the ending just seems out of a place and almost anticlimactic. Without giving too much away, where the movie starts with a bang, it goes out very much with a sequel teasing whimper. Despite this flaw, the film is still a hell of a lot better than the majority of zombie flicks out there: it’s scary, tense and has Brad Pitt. The tired zombie genre has very much risen from the grave and is undead once again. This a film that is meant to be viewed (sometimes from behind one’s fingers) at the cinema and it is well worth a trip. As glorious as Brad is in three dimensions, save yourself a couple of quid and stick with the 2D though.
On a side-note, does anyone else think that WWZ sounds distinctly better when said by an American: World War ‘Zee’ vs World War ‘Zed’?