A recent list of the 25 best zombie movies of all time has “Dawn of the Dead” at the No. 1 spot followed by “Braindead” and “Night of the Living Dead.” Although it remains to be seen whether or not “World War Z” will earn a spot in the coveted roll of great zombie films (I think it should.), there is no doubt that its price tag of $190 million definitely makes it the most expensive living-dead movie ever.
“World War Z,” directed by Marc Forster and based upon Max Brooks’ 2006 novel of the same name, stars Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, who is a former investigator for the United Nations living in Philadelphia with his wife, Karin (Mireille Enos), and their two daughters, Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) and Constance (Sterling Jerins). As the film begins, Gerry and his family pile into the car and head downtown, where they immediately run into a massive traffic jam, and then a radio newscast informs them of a nationwide outbreak of rabies.
Suddenly an explosion rips through the street ahead of them, and zombies appear from every direction. Once a person is bitten, the subsequent transformation into a zombie takes only 12 seconds. As the Lanes are fleeing for their lives, Gerry gets in contact with Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena), the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, who sends a helicopter to rescue Gerry and his family from the top of an apartment building.
The whirlybird whisks the Lanes away to safety aboard a Navy ship anchored near New York City. After Gerry and his family are settled, he learns that scientists on the ship are frantically trying to figure out what is causing the massive influx of zombies around the world. Because Gerry is a former U.N. investigator, the scientists enlist his help in finding the cause of what they believe is a zombie-inducing virus. At first Gerry wants no part of this, but he soon learns that if he doesn’t agree to help, his family will not be permitted to stay on the ship.
Thus Gerry departs for a military base in South Korea, where some believe the key to the undead infestation lies, but his trip doesn’t end there because he meets a guy who tells him the real secret to the whole matter is in Jerusalem. After major trials and tribulations involving incredible encounters with swarms of zombies, Gerry finally makes his way to a research complex in Cardiff, Wales, where he hopes he will finally find some answers.
Despite the fact that too much of this film’s action takes place in subdued lighting to suit my taste, “World War Z” is a very good thriller, and zombie lovers should see enough of the creatures in this film to last them for a long time. There are literally mountains of them in places, and one scene in which they attempt storm a wall is literally and figuratively over the top as the result of some truly stellar CGI effects.
With the recent success of “The Walking Dead” TV series over the last three years, the zombie genre has achieved a renewed popularity, and this film certainly will enhance that. In the film’s production notes, Pitt confessed that he learned a lot during the project.
“Five years ago I knew nothing about zombies. Now I consider myself an expert. Max’s book treats the zombie genre as a global pandemic, spreading much like we’ve witnessed viruses such as SARS travel. What happens when this jumps the fire-break. What happens when everything we concern our days with is rendered useless? What happens when power structures and societal norms are obliterated? How will we survive?”
Pitt turns in a typically fine performance in a role that certainly must have been physically demanding, but he is at his best during an extremely tense segment near the end where Gerry is attempting to find something in the lab. You can read every thought and emotion in his face.
In a disappointing summer on the movie front, it’s refreshing to come across a horror film that lives up to its billing. There are very few dull moments in this movie, and often the action occurs at a frenetic pace. In the production notes director Forster explained why he thinks the film is relevant and what attracted him to it.
“There are a lot of parallels to what we’re living through, culturally, that lend themselves to a ‘zombie’ movie, but the great thing about Max’s book is that he set it in a realistic time frame and within a reality-based framework. That’s what really intrigued me. I wanted to create a movie that feels real, so audiences feel like this could happen, this minute, to any one of us. The general premise is that anything can happen, in any kind of scenario, on any given day. No one is spared; everyone is susceptible. That’s the plotline in the movie but it’s also real life.”
Horror fans have a treat in store for them when they watch “World War Z,” which earns a very respectable eight. The film may be about the living dead, but there is so much action in it that it should make viewers feel very much alive.