The probability of a worldwide zombie outbreak may be slim, but the scenario appears eerily real in Brad Pitt’s World War Z. Pitt stars as former UN employee Gerry Lane, who manages to get his family out of Philadelphia and then New York, using his connections to find them a place on a secure American battleship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, even as hordes of zombies take over the world.
Starting out as a tense thriller about an ordinary family’s struggle for survival amidst a global pandemic, the film quickly becomes an action blockbuster that might as well have been titled Brad Pitt vs the Zombies, given just how many times he narrowly escapes them while zipping across from South Korea to Israel to Wales when his old boss sends him out to investigate the root of the problem.
Based on a bestselling novel by Max Brooks, and helmed by Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster, World War Z has moments of great tension like one during a rooftop escape scene when Gerry accidently gets a zombie’s blood in his mouth. Counting down the few seconds that it takes for the virus to kick in, he rushes to the edge of the roof, prepared to leap off the building at the first sign of infection.
The zombies themselves look terrifying when they’re filmed as a (CGI) swarm. A sequence in Jerusalem where they pile up like ants and scale a high wall is particularly creepy, but not nearly as disturbing as knowing that passengers on an airborne plane may have a flesh-eater for company. The action moves fast and furious for the most part, save for a nice finale that unfolds on a dramatically smaller scale inside a medical research facility.
What World War Z is lacking is real feeling and a sense of loss. Thousands of humans are infected, just as many violently killed, and yet there’s no real grief or sorrow we either witness or feel ourselves, because there’s little pause or quiet time between the noisy set-pieces.
Producer and star Brad Pitt offers a credible performance; he’s at his best in his most vulnerable bits, like his scenes with his two daughters. The film, however, pushes its credibility, asking you not to blink even during such implausible scenes like one in which he and an Israeli soldier emerge the sole survivors of a harrowing plane crash.
But these are small nitpickings in an otherwise engaging action thriller that’s well mounted, and delivers enough bang for your buck. I’d say watch the film in 2D if you want to enjoy the little details.
I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for World War Z.