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World War Z - Review

World War Z

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

SO much has been written about the troubled production of World War Z that it would be easy to write off the film even before it’s been given a chance. Yet Marc Forster’s adaptation of Max Brooks’s acclaimed novel is far from the disaster that some had predicted.

Rather, it’s a flawed but surprisingly good zombie thriller that has more than enough to recommend a trip to the flicks. The first hour, in particular, is relentless and exciting, tossing you into a zombie apocalypse full pelt and whisking you along on a global adventure that’s high on spectacle.

Brad Pitt makes for an appealing focal point, carrying the movie almost single-handedly at times, and the zombies (while sure to irritate Romero purists who like them slow and dawdling) have a ferocious energy about them that gives rise to several decent scares.

What’s more, the violence may be watered down for the genre but not to the extent of a 12A, meaning that this also leans towards skewering maturer audiences.

The story picks up as the world is placed at risk from a mystery pandemic that turns most people it comes into contact with into flesh-eating zombies. Initially caught in the middle of the mayhem with his family, former UN worker Gerry Lane (Pitt) is subsequently forced back to work to investigate the cause in the hope of finding a solution.

His ensuing mission takes him from Korea to Wales via Israel in a desperate race against time that eventually extends to his family as well.

Forster’s film cannot be faulted in terms of scope and scale. It’s epic. The Quantum of Solace director regularly fills the screen with head-spinning aerial shots of cities being over-run, with zombies swarming over humans and infrastructure like killer ants laying waste to everything in their path.

It’s visually arresting yet completely sobering watching the speed with which populations are consumed.
The opening sequence in Philadelphia is particularly memorable in capturing the sense of panic, fear and desperation that permeates much of the resulting film, while set pieces in Israel and aboard a plane, mid-air, are just as exhilarating in their own way.

Pitt, meanwhile, invests his Gerry with a steely determination and quiet authority that is noble and endearing, while also tapping into a world weariness too.

The third act changes pace and becomes more intimate, succeeding in ushering the film to a tense conclusion. But it’s also here that the biggest cracks start to appear, straining a little too hard to set up future films while exposing one too many plot-holes in doing so. This is where the re-writes and re-shoots took place and you can tell.

Earlier on, meanwhile, Forster’s film is so full-on that it short-changes several support characters, most notably the otherwise excellent Mireille Enos as Pitt’s wife, but also the likes of Fana Mokoena, as a sympathetic UN boss, and James Badge Dale as a soldier at the sharp end of the epidemic.

The script, co-written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof, also fails to make good on some of the early markers it lays down politically and ethically, but for the most part maintains a level of intelligence that is engaging.

But overall, World War Z emerges as a solid piece of blockbuster entertainment that grips and even excites in spite of its shortcomings.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 116mins
UK Release Date: June 21, 2013