Life as you know it is about to change – the zombies are coming – and they’re not your typical run-of-the-mill horror zombies, they’re the most expensive ones Hollywood’s ever made (Vanity Fair reported the film needs to make $400 million internationally to break even – whoa!). Headlined by international celebrity Brad Pitt and directed by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, Monster’s Ball), World War Z is an engaging and smart movie sure to leave some clinging to their armrests, slumping in their seats, and squirming with disgust. The perfect summer movie, World War Z is a thrilling zombie/action experience from start to finish.
Based on Max Brooks’ novel of the same title, the protagonist, Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a United Nations employee, is thrust back into the field in exchange for his family’s protection. The Zombie pandemic spreads to all corners of the Earth, and in a race against time, Gerry must uncover the origin of the outbreak if he is to save humanity.
Without having read the novel, the screenplay delivers scenarios and characters that engage and thrill, and ultimately sets the stage for a sequel. The rumored franchise could be a go if box-office returns suggest World War Z is a worthy investment and blockbuster hit. Writers Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom, Lions for Lambs), Drew Goddard (Lost), and Damon Lindelof (Prometheus, Star Trek: Into Darkness) crafted a story that could have been great, were it not for one glaring flaw: the end. Designed with a sequel in mind, World War Z lacks the commitment and confidence to end how it should – openly with a cliffhanger. Instead the panicked build halts, so that a sloppy and hurried bow can be slapped on, just in case it’s not a success and a sequel never materializes.
How to end World War Z is a well-documented trouble for the movie – and if moviegoers recall, one of Lindelof’s previous works, namely Prometheus, had the same problem. The writer can effectively craft acts one and two, but when it comes to that third and final act – he can’t commit and what we end up with is a half-hearted ending and a movie that works well if it gets a sequel, or feels cheated if it has to stand alone. This is the case with World War Z, which – with the exception of its ending – works really well the whole way through. But it could have been great instead of just really good.
The weight of a movie this size (the speculated $225 million budget) would usually rest on a director’s shoulders, but in this particular instance, producer/actor Brad Pitt has to run the gauntlet. Cast because of his international appeal, the studios are hoping Pitt carries World War Z to that minimum $400 million global box-office (hey, it could happen, Prometheus returned $403 million), at least.
In his role as Gerry Lane, Pitt does everything right. He comes off as the loving, devoted husband and father whose previous experiences and instincts give him the perfect edge to survive this world. Lane by design is cunning and collected, brave yet afraid, vulnerable but impenetrable. What’s impressive is Pitt’s ability to give us a hero with cracks – we see him panic, out of concern and fear, yet within moments, his altruism shines through. It’s a performance delivered with nuance and genuineness. He also strikes the right balance with co-star Mireille Enos (The Killing, Gangster Squad), his on-screen wife Karin Lane. Enos delivers – and viewers might have to do a double take to recognize that she’s not Jessica Chastain.
Through quick, yet ultra-effective editing, World War Z flies by – and what you’re left with is a feeling of satisfaction and the ability to just take one deep breath and say, “okay, I can breathe again.” If you’re looking for a summer blockbuster that has the potential to become a guilty-pleasure and zombie classic, then look no further. World War Z is a thrilling Zombie-pocalypse boasted by the music of composer Marco Beltrami and Muse (listen to “Isolated System” below).
World War Z runs 116 minutes and is rate PG-13 for frightening zombie sequences, violence and disturbing images.