Vampires, werewolves, zombies. These classic horror subjects, which used to primarily appeal to hardcore fans of the genre, have become mainstream in today’s world of movies and television. Romero’s classic zombie movies used to be the thing of cult classics and horror buffs, but with 28 Days (2000) and Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead (2005), zombies were put on the map. The Walking Dead was turned into a hit television show, and we have seen more and more zombies on the big screen. This time it is World War Z, an adaptation of Max Brooks’ best selling novel.
Gerry (Brad Pitt) is a retired United Nations investigator who spends his days making pancakes for his family instead of solving problems for the world. He lives in Philadelphia with his loving wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and two girls: Constance (Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove). When the family is stuck in a traffic jam, something not unfamiliar to those on the east coast, they start to see police vehicles racing through the streets. A motorcycle cop even knocks off one of Gerry’s side mirrors. But that is nothing compared to a large vehicle that, out of nowhere, starts demolishing cars as it throws them out of their path. From that point on chaos ensues, and he sees a creature that looks human attack a man in a nearby car. 12 seconds later after some strange convulsions, the victim is transformed in to something not human. Gerry, meet zombies. Zombies, Gerry.
I have never read the novel from which the film is based by Max Brooks (whose father is Mel Brooks interestingly enough). But from what I understand, the movie is very different from the source material. But with that being said, I am lead to believe it is for the better. I have heard that most of the book is one long investigation by Gerry, where he travels the world looking for the cause of the zombie infection. While that isn’t much different from the general plot in the film, the book mainly shows zombies through flashbacks. And that wouldn’t make it the epic picture that World War Z is intending to be. Gerry’s travels are full of zombies in this version, and the audience is on the edge of their seats wondering how he is going to get out of doomed situation after situation. The moments are tense, and the film does a good job of keeping things grounded in reality as much as they possibly can.
Pitt is surprising in the lead role. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, as it has been some time since we have seen him in an action film like this. The Brad Pitt we know today has matured into a somber, wiser character with age. But after watching the film, the role is perfect for him. His character is a UN investigator, not a secret agent or martial arts expert. Gerry uses his intelligence to fight the zombies, while still holding his own when it comes to the action.
The special effects in the film are fantastic. We aren’t talking about a hand full of slow walking zombies grunting around the streets. That isn’t why the movie is called World War Z. Here we have the fast moving zombies, like in the previously mentioned 28 Days and Dawn of the Dead remake. And there are lots of them. The shots of entire cities overrun with these modern zombies are incredibly realistic looking. It is a big movie, in terms of the scope, and they pull off the look in a big way.
Whether or not you are a fan of zombies, there is something you are going to like in World War Z. The film is more of a thriller that happens to revolve around zombies (and no small amount at that). The real heart of the story comes from Pitts character and the investigation, which is a fascinating journey to be along for. With plenty of action and big budget special effects, it turns out to be the summer blockbuster that we hoped it would be.
World War Z is a B+