Film Review: World War Z

Loosely based on Max Brooks’ much-acclaimed novel of the same name, Marc Forster adds to the recent zombie craze with World War Z: the story of a retired United Nations operative who is forced to leave his family behind for the sake of ending a zombie pandemic. Noted for its realism and social commentary, the 2006 novel was critically acclaimed on release, yet the film adaptation leaves all this behind, instead opting for a generic apocalypse survival narrative that, although satisfactory, feels like it didn’t need to be made.

I’ve never been a fan of zombies. As antagonists, I feel they are bland; by definition, they don’t possess the power of thought, meaning their objective is always the same: infect others. Because of this, zombies feel less like a powerful, independent enemy than the physical embodiment of a virus. The zombies’ mindlessness and predictability leaves it down to the survivors to provide the real entertainment in these films, and it all depends on how they deal with the zombie threat: do they slaughter them or avoid them?

Unfortunately for large parts of World War Z, they choose to slaughter. In large groups, the zombies in this film act much like a swarm of krill or a tidal wave, and ex-UN employee Gerry Lane, played by Brad Pitt, and his army buddies are often found picking them off with high-powered rifles or sometimes even hand-grenades. The zombies in these scenes are cannon fodder, the tension, although great to begin with, dies fast, and it usually ends with a race-against-time situation to get to a helicopter or plane. It’s like Left 4 Dead: The Movie.
The real suspense comes from the scenes in which there is no obvious escape route, or where their objective is obstructed by zombies, such as my favourite scene, in which a passenger on a commercial flight is found to be infected. These kinds of scenes are truly exciting and suspenseful, but unfortunately they are few and far between.

As for the acting in this film, I would say it’s mostly fine. Brad Pitt, as he often does, seems comfortable and believable in his role as Gerry Lane. Mireille Enos, who I rate as an actress and feel is criminally underused in this film, plays Karin Lane, his devoted and concerned wife. Generic as that character may be, Enos plays her well. As a side note, why do casting directors struggle to find child actors that aren’t annoying? Everybody needs to take a leaf out of HBO’s book after Game of Thrones.

The biggest disappointment in World War Z is the plot. This film has been done many times before; be it with zombies or a deadly disease, there are countless movies in which it is left down to a single man/woman to try and save the world from a deadly pandemic and, with very few other original elements, I’m simply left wondering if the producers felt they were making an original, meaningful contribution to the zombie genre with World War Z, or if they just wanted to jump onto the recent zombie bandwagon.

All in all, this film can be exhilarating at times, but its uninspired story and characters stop it from being a potentially good zombie film and leave it as an okay, generic one. I think we all need to take a step back from the zombie genre for a while, until someone comes up with something new.

by Tom Woodcock