It’s fair to say that zombies have had it pretty tough in cinema of late; undervalued, and, if you were to ask an actual zombie for their thoughts, they’d probably say mistreated. Perceived in a more jovial manner, films such as Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland and Warm Bodies have given the once feared horror antagonist something of a comedic touch.
Marc Forster has ensured that the living dead have regained some integrity, as this Brad Pitt starring apocalyptic thriller has some genuinely threatening, bad-ass zombies rapidly infecting the majority of the world.
Based on the popular Max Brooks novel, Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a former employee of the United Nations who now devotes his life to his adoring wife (Mireille Enos) and two young daughters. However when an epidemic spreads whereby the human race take on zombie form when bitten, Gerry is called upon by his former employers to help find a remedy for this disease that is threatening to destroy the planet for good. Leaving his family in government protection, Lane heads off with a small team to various points in the world, to try and discover a cause for this pandemic, and therefore a solution.
Before we get to the edge-of-your-seat finale, we have to endure a long period in the middle section of this title that lags somewhat. The premise of one man fighting hoards of dead citizens is a concept that has grown rather tired on the big screen, and the scenes seem formulaic and repetitive. It isn’t until the narrative starts to build towards a conclusion and loose ends appear to be tying up, that we can regain an interest in this story. The final half an hour makes for absolutely thrilling viewing however, with a lengthy, intense and captivating sequence taking place in Britain. Not too far removed from the likes of the infamous velociraptor scene in Jurassic Park, it certainly helps that the zombies are actually daunting and intimidating, and the fear that they inspire adds to the overall impact. Also, the fact that the zombies sense the living by sound rather than smell makes for some hugely suspenseful sequences where our protagonists can’t afford to make any loud noises.
The audience will struggle to fully relate to our lead however, as Gerry isn’t just an ordinary guy, he is a hugely intelligent and crafty ex-government employee who knows exactly what he is doing. Though this certainly adds an element of safety and assurance to the role, you lose that everyday quality and hypothetical scenario where you can place yourself in his shoes. Plus, you never once forget it’s Brad Pitt, and in a strange way his good looks almost work against him. You can’t help but feel that World War Z is written around the actor, and he is so blatantly the star of the piece is becomes a little nauseating. Nobody else really does anything to help, so he embarks single handedly on a mission to save the world, complete with a well-placed cut on his brow, that ensures blood casually trickles down, giving him a classically heroic image.
However, this is ultimately what the audience want, and there are few people in the world you would rather entrust the future of mankind with than Pitt, who turns in a fine (if slightly self-indulgent) performance, and carries this film effortlessly with such an alluring screen presence, where so many other actors would struggle. In the meantime, there are no supporting roles of note that truly add anything to proceedings, with a plethora of insubstantial roles who come and go, and we even have an f-wordless Peter Capaldi, which is always a shame.
Zombies are becoming too archetypal a concept in cinema, and it requires something really innovative to fully justify spending a lot of money to re-enter the world of the undead, and though this certainly has its moments, it’s just not quite creative or original enough. That’s not to say it’s not worth seeing mind you, but before you discuss this amongst peers, you’re going to have to settle on whether it’s called World War Zee, or World War Zed. The latter will get you brownie points on this side of the Atlantic that’s for sure.
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