Review: World War Z (2013)

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***THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED OVER AT THE HOLLYWOOD NEWS, HERE, ON JUNE 20TH, 2013***

Director: Marc Forster.

Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Ludi Boeken, Fana Mokoena, Pierfrancesco Favino, Ruth Negga, Peter Capaldi, Moritz Bleibtreu, Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse.

Running Time: 116 minutes.

Certificate: 15.

SynopsisUnited Nations employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is at the forefront of a race against time to stop a zombie pandemic that is toppling armies, governments and threatening to destroy humanity itself.

Attempting to breathe new life into the zombie realm with his adaptation of Max Brooks’ 2006 book, Marc Forster has directed a relatively fun ride that will struggle to appease fans of the supernatural due to a steadfast commitment to family values and blatant lack of gore.

Strongest when itching towards 28 DAYS LATER territory in its far quieter final third, WORLD WAR Z spends most of its time floating somewhere between disaster movie and family drama. Hopping from continent to continent may not leave us dizzy, but events never reach tangible levels of worldwide panic when personal elements cause such an infuriating distraction. A Muse-assisted opening montage sets things off on a realistic path, but it’s soon undermined by a reliance on big budget CGI. Up close and personal zombie encounters are haunting due to their authenticity, but the choice to amp up the effects stakes often adds a B-movie feel that is hard to take seriously.

Shot from the off as a PG-13, WORLD WAR Z’s main problem lies in its need to keep a family audience happy. Slapped with a ludicrous 15 rating in the UK, you may spend a lot of time looking at your shoes due to its sporadic and effective 3D jumps, but there is nothing graphic to worry about here. Throwing us straight into its somewhat tame viral violence, the choice to steer clear of explanation is a wise move that leaves us as confused as those along the suddenly chaotic Philadelphia streets. Descending with an admirable lack of backstory, the undead swarm remain relatively free from the heavy politics that feature in the book, though rabies is frequently mentioned.

Damon Lindelof finds himself contributing to another summer script alongside Matthew Michael Carnahan and Drew Goddard. It’s certainly a welcome change to be kept guessing which supporting actors will meet a (less than) grisly end, but incessant expositional and unimaginative writing has this bordering on BATTLESHIP territory. Undoubtedly suffering at the hands of the script, Brad Pitt is not an everyman. Falling foul of family clichés, Gerry is thankfully able to call them at any given time due to his phone’s infinite juice… The script doesn’t care much for those outside its leading man and the brilliant G.I. JANE-esque Segen (Daniella Kertesz), lingering only for expositional assistance. British bright sparks Elyes Gabel and Ruth Negga may impress as young doctors, but they’re left clutching at straws when served with little more than brief introductions.

Surprisingly more effective in its quieter moments, Forster’s epidemic epic suffers from the snapping between tones and unnecessary dialogue. A vortex of unstoppable zombies climbing up a wall provides a disturbing image, but it’s the amusing product placement at the end that will prove more of a talking point for this post-WALKING DEAD generation.

VERDICT: 2*

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