I want to start by saying that I was not planning on seeing this movie. It’s not that I have anything against Brad Pitt or zombie films, it is just that I didn’t see anything in the previews or the write ups on the film that particularly interested me. That said, a friend wanted to see a movie and World War Z has been receiving surprisingly decent reviews so I was happy to go and check it out. All that to say, when I walked into the theater I had rather low expectations.
I am glad to report that World War Z is a pretty good zombie flick. Just don’t go expecting your mind to be blown.
World War Z, which was produced by Pitt, focuses on the character of Gerry Lane, who begins as a retired United Nations officer that apparently has seen his fair share of action. The film begins with Lane and his family, his wife (played by Mireille Enos) and two daughters, taking part in the mass exodus out of New York after some type of viral outbreak apparently turns humans into super fast moving, biting zombies. What ensues is a thrilling sequence that sees Lane and his family trying to stay alive while trying to find someplace safe. I am not going to ruin these opening moments for you, but suffice to say they certainly deliver the non-stop thrills one would expect in a summer blockbuster.
This sequence also introduces Lane’s motto “movement is life” which could be taken as inspiration of the remainder of the film, as Lane soon visits South Korea, Israel, and Wales in his search for a way to find a cure. Lane is unwillingly drafted as savior of the world due to his past experiences in “dangerous places.” I know, so many stereotypical zombie tropes in so little time, but the film has a sense of self-awareness which I can appreciate. At one point, during another awe-inspiring sequence in Israel, Lane chops a limb off of a soldier to save them from being infected, and after the danger has passed they exchange a knowing glance almost as if Pitt is acknowledging that there is nothing new going on here. But that doesn’t stop the film from delivering non-stop chaotic action including numerous harrowing encounters with the undead (seriously, do zombies always have to be dead, really) that somehow manages to balance both massive encounters with citywide destruction and intimate moments with just a few people in cramped hallways. Each sequence is equally as harrowing to watch and Pitt’s character works both as an observer and as an action hero.
But I will say it again, there really isn’t anything new that World War Z brings to the table. At the end of the film though, that fact didn’t really bother me as much as I thought it would. I mean really, not since I am Legend has there been such a universally competent Hollywood retelling of the zombie narrative. The action sequences are incredible, the scares are tangible and frequent (even though sometimes you can see them coming) and the acting is certainly decent enough to support this world ending tale. For some people that would be enough to warrant a trip to the theater to check it out on the big screen. Is the plot a bit contrived? Absolutely yes, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth seeing if you are looking for a fun thriller that certainly delivers in every area a zombie flick should. And the film does lightly touch on some interesting themes like global unity; this is certainly a positive apocalyptic narrative wherein human ingenuity and our adaptability ultimately bests anything Mother Nature can throw at us. Plus, the zombies themselves (also called zekes, just to keep things interesting) are pretty freaky with snapping teeth, fast moving bodies and the ability to group together as a writhing mass of destruction. But for me, with my hi-def television and home surround sound, I would have been just as satisfied renting the movie as much as seeing it inn the theaters, which is why I am giving World War Z a solid and respectable Rent It.