Just when you had forgotten about The Walking Dead, the zombies pull you back in.
One of the many zombie-related books to be released over the last few years is Max Brooks’ “World War Z”. Although I actually own Brooks’ previous book, “The Zombie Survival Guide”, I never got around to reading the book this film is based on. Turns out that was probably for the best, as the film takes more than a few liberties.
Brad Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a former United Nations investigator, who is forced to discover the source of a deadly zombie virus after it wreaks havoc on a worldwide scale. While his wife (“The Killing”‘s Mireille Enos) and children are safely tucked away on a rescue vessel, Gerry travels to South Korea, Israel and other destinations tracking down any possible clues on how to beat the virus which has already killed billions.
There are certain expectations that come with making a zombie movie, one of which is the need for gore. While blood certainly isn’t needed for suspense or even action, a film about the undead pouncing on innocent people and biting them kind of lends itself to that expectation. In what can only be called an effort to maintain a PG-13 rating, “World War Z” is almost completely without any gore. The only scene I can remember involving any kind of bodily fluid is when a zombie’s bloody spit ends up on Brad Pitt. Director Marc Forster (“Quantum of Solace”) tries to do his best with these kid-friendly limitations, but it makes certain scenes a little harder to comprehend. One such scene has Gerry cutting off the arm of a soldier in an effort to stop the spread of the virus, but it’s not until a minute later that the audience fully understands what just happened slightly off camera.
“World War Z” never spends too much time in one place as Gerry seems to be only minutes ahead of the zombies in each of his locations. It’s almost as if his arrival is a beacon being lit for the local zombies to attack. This rushed feel throughout the film is somewhat exhausting because we never get to enjoy an environment fully before being whisked away on what feels like the next level of a video game.
The good side to this approach is that the film has a large collection of secondary characters who are more interesting than Pitt’s Gerry. James Badge Dale, David Morse and the stunning newcomer Daniella Kertesz give the film an extra flavor to make Gerry’s travels more memorable. Though these characters are more interesting than the film’s protagonist, it is important to point out that Gerry is at least smarter than most people in zombie films. He often takes precautions that only the audience ever points out in tales of the undead.
Although the film is a little too watered down, there are some genuine moments of suspense to be had. A plane sequence near the end of the film provides a setting rarely thought about in horror films. On top of Forster’s zombies running like Zack Snyder’s did in “Dawn of the Dead”, these guys lunge towards their prey like a predator in the wild.
Most zombie films think small settings like hospitals or malls, but the global perspective of “World War Z” is a refreshing idea for a genre that is seriously lacking in most things fresh. As previously stated, the execution could have been better, but the film definitely gets points for originality in that regard.
“World War Z” probably won’t please fans of the book, as it cuts out many characters and the horror staple of gore. Aiming for a large audience, the film makes for a decent night out, but sacrifices its true potential on the altar of the almighty dollar.