Brad’s 2013 world tour gets bumpy, but it isn’t the Pitts…
You know how most doomsday films build and build to their apocalyptic end? Well, World War Z kind of doesn’t.
After a brief morning family start up, we’re quickly stuck in the traffic of downtown Philadelphia when it all starts going badly wrong. It’s a frantic opening after a hinting title sequence that works remarkably well against the normal progressive introduction. The beginning of the end arrives quickly and so begins one of many scintillating global great escapes.
We witness the end through the eyes of Brad Pitt’s former UN man in the field, Gerry Lane, now spending more time with his family after having some thinly implied anxiety issues. What that end is slowly becomes apparent but the Zed, Zee or whatever in the title is a pretty big clue.
So, another (Z)ombie apocalypse? Well…yes, but a welcome one that holds close to its global intention with some originality rather than the usual insularly set and out looking America versus/saves the world. Here ‘The West’ seems as powerless as the rest as Lane scrambles to find a source for the all the mayhem and hopefully a cure to cancel the apocalypse.
An amount of realism and grounding is achieved by setting most of the action in some of the lesser seen movie nations of the world predominantly from Lane’s eye view, bringing some superb moments that make brilliant use of historic landmarks, Jerusalem’s walled city gives rise to the best ‘Zombie ladder’ you are ever likely to see.
While achieving a relative sense of realism with gritty direction and settings, the use of “the undead” and “zombies” to describe the developing plague spreaders seems clunky when thrown in to an otherwise believable premise which while predictable, portrays an end that is set within the plausible realm of natural order and mother nature’s wrath. Elyes Gabel’s pathologist’s “serial killing Mother Nature” statement though seems a ridiculous analogy while conveniently giving Lane his first later clue.
While Pitt’s world tour continues scaling out director Marc Forster’s wider world vision we continue to get to see some of the best Zombie action to date aided by much better realised CG masses, far removed from the comparably terrible crowd scenes of I am Legend. Massive Zombie packs flow like locusts over walls and overturned buses.
Scale and speed is Forster’s niche as his headache inducing action edits in Quantum of Solace attest. Appearing to only have one cut speed though – ludicrous speed, serves WWZ’s frantic spectacle well; aerial shots give a great sense of city wide devastation as citizens flee from the spritely footed walking dead; It’s a spectacular means to an action end, and The End but loyalists to the slower, blood hungry type biters may question the physical capabilities of Forster’s sprinting and jumping varieties.
Some implausibility sets in and the early intimacy wains aside Brad’s globetrotting, but it’s no busman’s holiday. Leaving the family behind in the resolute hands of wife Mirielle Enos, the significance of the early effective family bond and genuine care surrenders to a glut of Zombie fodder action.
More stoic than heroic, Pitt’s central unchallenging performance lacks any great emotion, Lane’s skills and damaged psyche remain largely unrevealed and it’s hard to gauge what his actual role is other than the eyes on, and megastar within the chaos; he leads an implausibly charmed existence too, narrowly and frequently avoiding capitulation, seemingly imperishable to anything the Zombie horde can dish out. After several escapes it’s obvious the star is going to stick around a while, in turn taking away a sense of genuine danger, especially when close encounters lack a bloody punch; Gore, what gore? Pitt does well enough though in what is a largely un-testing one man show in a cast of thousands.
Within that cast is the blink and you will miss it appearance of Matthew Fox, the once would be next big thing seems to have Lost his way or fallen foul of numerous edits and rewrites, if much of Jack’s input still sits on the cutting room floor along with other surplus clippings then WWZ still manages to conquer many of its well documented troubles and revisits; an isolated finale may well be a product of revisions (I dunno?) when feeling dissimilar to proceedings but it certainly injects (literally) a welcome slower pace and some much needed up close tension.
But WWZ still excels best in its chaotic Zombie action and as a feast for the apocalyptic viewing eye it’s a satisfying spectacle.