Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Movie Review: World War Z

Brad Pitt and family flee the zombie apocalypse in "World War Z"
Reviewed by NATHAN COOK
Doubters thought this apocalyptic effort could only end in disaster, but the latest zombie thriller manages to be surprisingly good and constantly engaging.

It starts out like any regular day in Philadelphia. Brad Pitt plays a family man who has left behind his old life as a United Nations specialist to spend more time with his wife and kids. After breakfast, he drives the family around town only to enter into a traffic jam.

This is no ordinary traffic jam, however since the civilians trying to drive through have no idea of what’s going on. The terrifying answer: ZOMBIES!

It seems that everybody is running through the streets to escape the hordes of the undead. Some aren’t lucky. They are killed and instantaneously transformed into zombies themselves. Others, like Pitt and his family, manage to get out alive … for now.

After taking refuge in the nearby apartments for a night, they rush up to the rooftop evading yet another wave of ghouls. Successfully boarding a helicopter, they are guided to an aircraft carrier in the ocean. The family is given a place to stay while Pitt agrees to travel across the globe to fight zombies, find answers, and perhaps come up with some sort of solution that will allow humanity to fight back against the epidemic.

This film is different from other zombie flicks in that it treats the situation less like an arena of carnage and more like global crisis, giving it a more realistic air. Director Marc Forster handles the thrilling set pieces and suspenseful moments well, which gives life to the proceedings. Kudos to the animalistic movements of the zombies, which give a new meaning to the term “horde”.

When the undead aren’t wreaking havoc, Pitt and company are locked in a briskly paced race against time to stop the infection from spreading. Unlike most apocalyptic films, the film has a visual flavor all around, from the cool, busy center of Philadelphia turned into a heart of doom to the bleak, desolate South Korean outpost trapped in the rain, to the warm, walled-up city of Jerusalem still abundant with life. The score is minimal, though the main opening theme is ambient yet attention-grabbing. It is like a warning of the perils to come.

The film’s major asset, Pitt himself. He gives a solid performance as a hero who relies mostly on his wits and experience. Behind the scenes, ever since a film adaptation of Max Brooks’ 2006 novel was first conceived, it was Pitt who had interest and faith in the material. He sought to get it backed by a major studio and launched into production. There were many struggles between Pitt and Forster, production problems, script rewrites (the third act was entirely altered), and release delays for conversion into 3D, which resulted in it being the most expensive zombie movie ever made. It seems as if Pitt has endured the brutalities of war just to see this film come alive onto the big screen.

WWZ is not without its flaws though. The opening sequence is marred by an excessive amount of chaos with the dreaded action-film combination of shaky-cam and quick-cut ending, to the point that some of it is nearly incomprehensible. Plot holes progressively unravel as the film winds towards its wide-open ending.

It’s hard to make a PG-13 zombie film, as graphic displays of blood and gore are the bread and butter of the genre. The filmmakers attempted to tone all of this down, but the lack of grisly carnage causes the result to feel watered down

I cannot compare the film to the novel since I have not read it. I have heard from those who have that this film is loosely adapted, which is a drawback for them. Gamers might recognize that a few scenes are similar to levels in the video game “Left 4 Dead.” Nothing like having your story-boarding done in advance, I guess.

All in all, though, “World War Z” is a well-done, effective piece of work that turned out to be much better than expected. It delivers the goods for a summer blockbuster and offers a pleasant, mindful diversion from the other apocalyptic flicks coming out this year.

Nathan Cook is a recent graduate of Skyline High School who will be attending Boise State University in the fall.