World War Z

24 Jun

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When a Zombie apocalypse threatens to wipe out mankind, it is left to former United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) to put a stop to a pandemic that has affected the whole world.

Zombie films are something I am not particularly well versed in, I must say. I don’t watch many of them as I have rarely found them appealing. For whatever reason though, World War Z whet my appetite and I was excited enough to make an effort to see it on it’s opening weekend. What what I got was a film that I enjoyed; a blockbuster that delivered in the blockbuster stakes without reverting too much to cliché.

The film wastes no time in getting right into the action. We start at the home of Gerry, his wife Karin Lane (Mireille Enos) and their two daughters, Constance (Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove). As Gerry makes breakfast, he is asked by his children whether he misses his old job. He tells them he prefers his new job, which turns out to essentially be making breakfast for his kids. So, Gerry’s a family man and loves his children – that’s established nice and early and we immediately have a lead character with a bit of depth.

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When Gerry is driving his kids to school, they get stuck in heavy traffic, with the radio reporting an international pandemic believed to be rabies. However, within a few minutes some not-quite-right looking people have appeared and started smashing into people’s cars head-first and trying to bite them. Naturally this causes panic amongst a gridlocked City. Everybody starts to run as fast as they can in all directions. The sense of terror created amongst the City is palpable. The camera follows Gerry and his family on the ground as they make a run for it, shaking as it does so. This is effective in placing the viewer right into the heart of the action. What we also get as the movie progresses is some fantastic aerial shots of the zombie attacks. This gives a good sense of the scale of the attacks when shown from above cities. We can see just how many people are running for any space they can find, and how little chance they have of survival. I was very impressed by this element of the cinematography as it contributed to a very real sense of peril.

Now, I’ve already admitted to having no level of expertise on zombie movies, so any aficionados reading this may feel free to pick me up on this if I’m wrong; I found the story to be refreshingly original. Many armies around the world are being toppled by the pandemic and, as I’ve already said, the sense of genuine threat to every character involved in this story is real; I never felt confident that key characters would survive, which is something I always consider a plus point in a film. If you’re not confident of a happy ending then you have something to invest in.

There is enough action in this film to qualify it as a blockbuster; there are plenty of things on fire and stuff exploding, but this film is more than that. It is intelligently conceived and the way Gerry goes about trying to find a cure for the pandemic is interesting and makes sense. This has the very real feel of a post 9/11 world; the army involvement, added to the panic and fear amongst the world’s population really provide a sense that this is a genuine war, a true “Us v Them” scenario in which, more than just something to be feared, the zombies are an enemy that must be stopped.

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The casting for this film is good. Brad Pitt makes a good family man and handles his action and dialogue well. Danielle Kertesz is impressive as Segen, a soldier that Gerry picks up on his travels and adopts as a sidekick. There are a couple of scenes where she is particularly gripped by fear and I found that she conveyed this well. Mireille Enos, as Gerry’s suffering wife,  does a good job of standing around looking concerned, or sometimes she’s walking and looking scared. There’s even the odd occasion where she’s actually lay down and, erm…looking scared. What I’m saying is that she’s mainly there to look scared, and on this evidence, nobody could question her ability to pull an I’m scared face. There’s nothing wrong with the casting here at all, but this is Pitt’s movie and he does a good job.

The make-up/costume work on display is pretty impressive. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the zombie’s are scary, because they aren’t, but they’re certainly unpleasant to look at. Their movements are fantastic too, it gives them a creepy element that a zombie should have. As such a key part of the movie, I found the zombie’s design to be satisfyingly nasty. If they were meant to be frightening to the viewer then they missed the mark, but they are certainly a little creepy.

Everything about this film was done well and there is nothing that jumped out at me that I disliked or didn’t think was quite right. That said, I didn’t quite love it. I think maybe, if I’m being a little critical, there are times where the pacing felt a bit off. It’s not a major problem and the film largely makes efficient use of it’s runtime, but perhaps there were times when it could have progressed a little quicker.

World War Z is an enjoyable film in a genre that I have previously found myself disinclined to immerse myself in, and a lot of the direction and cinematography was well handled. The lead performance is engrossing and the sense of threat hangs over the film throughout. I quite liked the end of the movie and would be happy enough for it to be left as it is, though a sequel seems inevitable.

7/10

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