AS FAR as zombie apocalypses go, the latest entry into the genre – World War Z – hits the ground running and doesn’t let up for breath until the finale.
Brad Pitt stars as retired UN investigator Gerry Lane who is brought back into the fold to stop the zombie pandemic from wiping out the human race.
The film opens with Lane preparing breakfast for his wife, Karin (Mireille Enos), and their two kids.
This domestic bliss ends abruptly on a morning drive through Philadelphia when traffic is brought to a halt as zombies start attacking everyone in sight.
After getting his family to safety, Lane is called upon by his former employers to discover the origins of the outbreak.
Based on a novel by Max Brooks and coming in at a budget of about $200 million, it is by far the most expensive zombie film created for the screen and it shows as Pitt’s character traverses the globe from South Korea to Israel in some jaw-dropping scenes.
Director Marc Forster (Monsters Ball, Finding Neverland, Quantum of Solace) shows he is adept at controlling these large action sequences, as well as the more stealth orientated scenes and the result is that audiences never feel lost amid all the zombie chomping carnage.
The film, to its credit, eschews any long tedious explanation of how this zombie outbreak occurred, though there are hints to its cause at the beginning.
Instead it relies simply on throwing Pitt’s character straight into one high tension set piece after another with enough diversity in each as to avoid any repetition.
Pitt is suitably heroic as the everyman who must put to use all his skills in order to save the world and in turn his family but there is a serious lack of character development.
This may have something to do with the fact that Pitt’s character doesn’t actually exist in the original source material but that is no excuse considering the experience of the screenwriters involved.
Mireille Enos, fantastic in the TV show The Killing, is left making teary phone calls to her husband in a largely thankless role that doesn’t make use of her proven acting ability.
The zombies themselves are a combination of CGI for the large en masse attacks and great make-up for the close-ups with actors.
The writers also come up with a clever plot device so that we get the traditional slow moving zombies along with the more recent fast moving variety.
The much reported troubled shoot, with screenwriters Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof brought in for rewrites, becomes noticeable in the third act which seems rushed when compared with everything that precedes it.
This is a shame because the film, until that point, balances the fast paced frenetic scenes with some quieter moments quite well without ever letting the tension slip away.
Don’t go looking for any deep existential theories on the human condition with this film though.
Unlike some of the classic zombie movies of the genre such as George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead or even Edgar Wright’s horror/comedy Shaun of the Dead, there is no socio-political commentary here.
Although one could could interpret the scenes in Israel – where zombies swarm over a fictitious wall erected to stop the zombies – as a comment on the country’s real life wall built in the West Bank
Instead sit back and enjoy what is largely an entertaining and tense zombie film, that while not reinventing the genre, is a worthy addition to the field.
World War Z is in cinemas now.