Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Daniella Kertesz
Running Time: 116 minutes
Release: June 21
Zombies have pretty much reached saturation point in popular culture. They’re everywhere from movies to TV shows to video-games, spanning every possible genre. You can’t move for the undead blighters. Just about the only thing that hasn’t been attempted with zombies is a full scale summer blockbuster, and World War Z is here to prove why, as it’s a zombie epic that completely lacks bite.
Based very loosely on the Max Brooks novel of the same name, World War Z finds former UN investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) trapped with his family in Philadelphia in the midst of a sudden, violent zombie outbreak the sweeps the city in a matter of hours. After barely escaping with their lives, Gerry is tasked by his former bosses to trace the cause of the epidemic, and to hopefully track down some kind of a cure. His journey finds him spanning the globe as he races to find a solution, but as the infection spreads rapidly it may already to be too late to turn the tide back in humanity’s favour.
The big selling point of World War Z is the scale. Where most zombie movies take place in a single location under siege, here you get vast swarms of the undead attacking cities around the world. However in order to appeal to the broadest possible audience the film has being sanitized to an excessive level. At every turn you can feel the filmmakers pulling their punches, and not a single drop of blood is shed, despite the vast body-count. A sequence where a character has to have a hand amputated is almost comical in its efforts to avoid showing any grisly details. This greatly dampens the visceral nature of the attack scenes, rendering them dull to sit through.
Director Forster has always been better fitted to intimate character dramas and here, as with his Bond adventure Quantum of Solace, he seems ill at ease at the helm of a big budget spectacle. The action scenes are chaotic and noisy, and the pace dictates that there is precious little character drama to compensate for it. Pitt makes for a reliable if bland lead, spending most of his time running away or staring in awe as waves of computer generated zombies decimate all in their path. Actors James Badge Dale and David Morse turn up briefly and inject life into proceedings before Pitt is shuffled onto another plane to chase another piece of evidence. The globetrotting nature of the story helps to keep the action varied at least, and the film does add some intriguing new elements to zombie lore.
World War Z gets marks for ambition and the occasional interesting idea or arresting visual, but with a 12A rating that hampers it at every turn and an overtly familiar story it doesn’t do enough to overcome its weaknesses.