I haven’t read Max Brooks’ 2006 novel so I was never going to be offended by how much Hollywoodisation of the source material occurred with this. As I understand it, the book is a series of accounts from separate narrators, and there’s no real overarching plot as such. World War Z the film, however, is storytelling at its most basic. Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a former employee of the United Nations, who’s pressganged into travelling the world mere hours after the zombie infection hits, searching for a cure in a race against time.
The zombies in question are most definitely that of the 28 Days Later variety. In fact, you could basically call this film 1 Hour Later, since it focusses on the first few days, where everyone’s just been zombified and are running through the streets biting people. The first half hour of World War Z really rams home this concept – the initial explosion of infection, so to speak, is staggering to behold – and it’s a case of nail-biting tension from the get-go as Gerry and his family struggle to reach safety.
In fact, much of World War Z is an excellent example of edge of your seat tension and excitement. The film effectively comprises half a dozen set pieces, each a brilliant example of how to thrill audiences. Director Mark Forster continues to astound me with his ability to switch genres. This is the man who directed Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland, Stay, Stranger Than Fiction and Quantum of Solace – if you can find a thematic link between those films, then you’re a smarter person than I. Here, he’s in full Hollywood popcorn mode and, like I said already, World War Z is an impressive example of big, loud fun.
Once or twice, I was bothered by some frenetic handheld camerawork – Mark, you have been warned – but it never reached the same levels as Quantum of Solace. For the most part, the action is captured brilliantly. The film copped a lot of criticism with its rating also – here in Australia it is M – and there are one or two moments where the editing is at pains to avoid showing us any gore; no mean feat in a zombie movie. Such instances did take me out of the film, but they were soon forgotten as we moved onto the next exciting scene.
The narrative is riddled with holes. First and foremost, the most difficult thing to swallow is that Gerry manages to be at the centre of half a dozen disasters, one after the other. It’s a whirlwind tour of global meltdown – “If you look out your left window, folks, you’ll see a nuclear explosion” – and it doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense. Then of course, we have to CGI zombies that everyone ridiculed after seeing the initial trailer. Yes, they move in a way that suggests the laws of physics don’t apply to them. But you know what? The movie’s pacing is so capably handled that it never bothered me. There’s also the fact that the visual effects are actually very good.
World War Z is a brilliant example of leave-your-brain-at-the-door entertainment. As long as I didn’t stop to think about the many coincidences, unlikely events and plot holes, this was a damn fine two hours of entertainment.Rating: