Film review: World War Z

posted at 9:31 am on July 7, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

A new disease races around the globe, collapsing the great cities of the world.  The few still alive either hide in darkened houses waiting to be bitten by the sick and transform into what they fear, or get evacuated to help fight the plague that threatens to destroy humanity. One UN investigator leaves his family behind to find the cause of the zombie disease, or at least a way to fight it.  Can he outrace the zombies and find a way for humanity to fight back — before his own family succumbs to them?

World War Z actually came out a couple of weeks ago, but between travels and other scheduling problems, I didn’t get a chance to watch it until last night.  That’s too bad, because World War Z might not be Shakespeare but it’s a good action film, and one that (mostly) doesn’t insult the viewers’ intelligence.  The film grabs the attention of the audience almost from the first scene, avoiding most of the action cliches while delivering a few jump-in-your-seat moments.  The airliner sequence is a little over-the-top but harrowing nonetheless.  Only a listless and incomplete ending ends up grounding World War Z.

The film rests entirely on Brad Pitt’s shoulders.  Pitt gives a natural performance as a relatively ordinary man, Gerry Lane, pressed into extraordinary service while worried constantly about his family.  Mireille Enos isn’t given much to do as Lane’s wife after the first 30 minutes, but Daniella Kertesz picks up the slack considerably as Segen, an Israeli soldier that teams up with Lane after he saves her from zombification. Both David Andrews as the naval commander and Ludi Boeken as a Mossad analyst have a couple of good moments, but most of the cast ends up taking a back seat to the constant action.

** Mild spoilers **

There are a few discordant plot holes, nothing too egregious but still a bit puzzling.  Pitt’s Lane is a UN investigator that the film heavily hints is a highly-skilled intelligence operative, which seems a little strange in the UN context.  Furthermore, he gets evacuated to a UN flotilla; I’m unaware that the UN has its own navy, especially one sitting off the coast of the Atlantic seaboard of the United States, manned with what seems to be American military personnel.  Why not just make Lane an American intel operative?  The excellent David Morse gets wasted in a bit part as a CIA renegade, who only provides some weird window dressing in a sequence that adds nothing to the film.  I’m also unaware of a major airport in Jerusalem, which I think I would have noticed on my trip out there when World War Z opened.  The nearest major airport would be Ben Gurion, 55 km away in Tel Aviv, but the film makes it appear that Lane and Segen have run to the airport from the Old City of Jerusalem. The geography of Tel Aviv would mean it would have already been overrun by zombies by the time that sequence in the film occurs, and a big wall might have come in handy there, too.

Honestly, though, I’ve seen good action films with a lot more problems than these, and World War Z definitely meets the criteria of a good popcorn flick.  Especially in the serious-zombie-film genre, this is well written and directed by Marc Forster (The Kite Runner, Quantum of Solace, Monster’s Ball).  It gives a couple of plot twists that surprised us, and the action — once one gets used to super-fast zombies — doesn’t fall into the oh, come on! realm.  The ending, however, is a little weak and feels test-marketed.

On the 5-point Hot Air scale, I give this a 4 for zombiephiles and action movie fans, and a 3 for everyone else:

  • 5 – Full price ticket
  • 4 – Matinee only
  • 3 – Wait for Blu-Ray/DVD/PPV rental or purchase
  • 2 – Watch it when it hits Netflix/cable
  • 1 – Avoid at all costs

I bought a full-price ticket with 3D, but I was disappointed in the 3D effects, which mainly consisted of a couple of cheesy “Comin’ At Ya!” stunts.  Skip the extra expense and watch it in normal format.

World War Z is rated PG-13 for lots of violence, and “intense frightening zombie sequences.” Not for kids, but young teens should be able to handle it.

Update: My friend John Hanlon reviewed it earlier, and mostly liked it as well.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Karl Magnus on July 7, 2013 at 10:17 AM

I’ve liked zombie movies since the 1980s. Nothing wrong with zombie shows and zombie movies.

TigerPaw on July 7, 2013 at 10:23 PM

I tend to agree though often you have to laugh that the slow zombies actually catch people.

CW on July 7, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Humans can run faster than slow zombies, but require rest. Zombies are slow but will never stop coming, and they will catch up eventually. Either that or they will drive a fast human into the teeth of other slow zombies. It’s the hopelessness that even though you can run, there’s nowhere to run TO that makes the slow zombie genre effective.

James on July 8, 2013 at 1:34 AM

Comment pages: 1 2