“World War Z” follows a narrative that has become overly familiar to us. One day the world become overrun by zombies, an infection mysteriously inflicted upon up and spread rapidly through our interconnected world. Ironically, David Morse is cast as a shadowy CIA agent and in his one scene, reminds us of another scary character he played in another post-apocalyptic film “12 Monkeys.” In a way, we’ve seen this kind of thing many times before and, it seems, way too often.
Brad Pitt plays former UN investigator Gerry Lane. When the zombie outbreak occurs, he’s with his children in a Volvo station-wagon in bumper to bumper traffic. Through luck and a little bit of skill, Gerry and his wife (“The Killings” Mireille Enos) survive the night with their children. And it is a harrowing experience. But the next morning, the government must rescue them. Once aboard a ship at sea, Gerry is recruited for a mission to find the source of the outbreak. It is a mission he can’t refuse–his family will be kicked off the boat unless he puts his investigative skills to work.
“World War Z” makes satirical points along the way but really it is a zombie horror/action movie at its core. Looking for deep meaning will be tough. However, hints are there, especially when Pitt travels to one Middle Eastern country that seems to have things under control. And at the heart of this potential blockbuster is Pitt delivering a fine understated performance that we’ve come to expect from him. He’s very serious in a quiet way, and this approach works very well for the material.
Pitt is clearly committed to the film having also shared producer duties. And it is a good bet, people in the screening I attended were painted up and zombified. The fanbase from shows like “The Walking Dead” should propel this film to significant box office returns. Still, because the budget reached something like $195 million, one wonders whether a zombie film priced that high can make its money back.
“World War Z” isn’t the best zombie movie ever made, but it will be considered one of the best of the genre. You get zombie transformations, cities overrun by fast-moving undead, a family story with heart, plenty of good zombie kills, and some pseudo-science thrown in to appeal to nerds like me. “WWZ” is gritty with a visual style reminiscent of Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later,” which makes it feel less like almost $200 million and more like the horror movies that inspired it. Far from purely the thinking man’s zombie film, it literally has a little something for every zombie fan or those of us just passing through and not wanting to get bitten.