My expectations were quite tepid for Marc Forster’s adaptation of the novel World War Z, so I set the bar very low. Multiple reasons for this. One was that I haven’t liked anything I’ve seen from Marc Forster since 2001’s “Monster’s Ball”. That list consists of “Finding Neverland”, “The Kite Runner” and one of my least favorite Bond films, “Quantum of Solace”. Another issue was hearing about the film’s troubled production history, including a complete reshoot of the movie’s finale. Also, there was the PG-13 factor: the rating most often implemented when trying to bolster summer blockbuster attendance. Hey, I’m a George A. Romero zombie man—nothing less than an ‘R’ would suffice I kept telling myself. Plus, hasn’t this whole zombie craze shot its bolt yet? Well, big surprise that “World War Z” is actually quite enjoyable. Oh, it’s tame alright, and the third act is only partially acceptable. But we do get Brad Pitt(aging beautifully as a performer…he’s damn good in everything he does now). And that scene of the zombie-horde clambering upwards to a helicopter like a hill of ants is really good stuff—even if we did see most of it in the trailer. A later bit on an airplane is pretty awesome too.
Pitt is Gerry Lane, a semi-retired, former United Nations Investigator who is convinced to return to service when the zombie “pandemic” breaks out. We get some early, brief establishing moments of Lane with his wife(Mireille Enos, as the dutiful Karin Lane)and two daughters at home, being all cute and family-like—and then a horde of zombies attack while Lane’s brood sits in a Philadelphia traffic jam. Jerry watches in horror as one of the “infected” bites a stranded motorist—only to witness the motorist turned into a mindless, hungry beast in a matter of seconds. As his spouse and their two young girls manage to narrowly escape the exponentially expanding feeding colony(in an abandoned RV), Lane is successful in finding them temporary shelter in a Newark, New Jersey apartment building. The poor family that graciously takes them in prepares to be extracted, along with Lane’s family, via a rooftop helicopter rescue. But only the family’s young son makes it, as the rest of his relatives are attacked and instantly infected. As Lane gets his U.N. boss to bunker his family and young Tommy on a miles out-to-sea aircraft carrier, Lane begins an epic hop around the globe to search for a stop to the incredibly fast-moving epidemic.
Pitt carries this thing almost entirely on his own. Oh, there are a few worthwhile supporting stints—including the one from Daniella Kertesz as an Israeli soldier named “Segen”. But Pitt keeps the whole thing grounded throughout. I mean, when was the last time this former pretty boy has turned in a sub-par performance? 1998’s “Meet Joe Black”, maybe? Honestly, lately he’s the best thing going for just about every feature he’s appeared in. And director Forster handles the action much better here, than he did in 2008’s “Quantum of Solace”. It’s mostly bloodless, as that PG-13 rating should confirm, but the pace is crisp and exciting, with a big focus on keeping things tense throughout. The ending is simply “okay”(apparently a vast departure from the source novel), but handled well enough. And then the gushy epilogue, with the expected word of warning. “World War Z” was a solid international hit, garnering around 540 million dollars, so far. The box office take has re-ignited talk of a sequel(they had dropped plans during the troubled production). And if Mr. Pitt is involved—you can count me in. Grade: B-