World War Z review

World-War-Z-Poster-2013

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.

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) getting his family to safety after the zombie outbreak occurs.

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) getting his family to safety after the zombie outbreak occurs.

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.

Take This Waltz – Film Review by Strider

 

I loved Sarah Polley’s impressive 2006 directorial debut film Away From Her. She showed a subtle hand in depicting an elderly couple dealing with the onset of Alzheimer’s without sinking into midday movie territory.

In her second feature film, Take This Waltz, the young Canadian actress, writer and director takes on the topic of marital infidelity.

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The Cabin in the Woods – Film Review by Strider

Caution minor spoilers ahead.

What do you get when you take a bit of Truman Show, mix in a little Evil Dead and of course the secret ingredient; a whole lot of love?

You get; The Cabin in the Woods.

The film is the brainchild of geek-god Joss Whedon (Buffy, Avengers) and Drew Goddard (Angel, Lost, Cloverfield), with Goddard handling the reigns for his directorial debut.

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The Avengers – Film Review by Strider

The superhero movie to end all superhero movies, The Avengers has at the time of writing Hulk-smashed its way to gross over one billion dollars worldwide so most ROTFN readers have probably seen it, discussed it and seen it again, but I’ll offer my take on the film for those familiar and for, what surely must be a minority, the uninitiated.

The Avengers is the culmination of a plan by Marvel Entertainment to create a multi-film universe with each film contributing to the marvel tapestry and just as Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) is the right man to assemble the Avengers, writer/director Joss Whedon is the perfect man to assemble the film.

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A Dangerous Method – Film Review by Strider

 

David Cronenberg’s latest film explores how the relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gave birth to psychoanalysis.

It’s not surprising that Cronenberg the director of such violent, gory and mind-warping classics such as Videodrome and Dead Ringers would be interested in the dark complex world of psychoanalysis. What is surprising is that the film itself isn’t as violent or sexually explicit as fans of Cronenberg would expect.

A Dangerous Method opens in the year 1904 as a manic, troubled young Russian woman named Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightly) is being forcibly institutionalised into a clinic in Zurich. She is placed into the care of a psychiatrist named Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) who applies the methods of his mentor, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) to treat his new patient. Although Jung and Freud have not met at this time Jung is familiar with Freud’s work in this field and will soon be invited to Vienna to meet him.

As Sabina recovers and actually begins to study psychology Jung is slowly drawn to her and they begin an affair. The affair and differing views on psychoanalysis leads to a rift between Jung and Freud.

Screenwriter Christopher Hampton adapting his own 2002 stage play ‘The Talking Cure’ (itself an adaptation of a novel by John Kerr called ‘A Most Dangerous Method’) gives plenty for the actors to chew on and thankfully the actors are more than up to the task. Mortensen, on his third collaboration with Cronenberg, is smooth and calculated as Freud but hints at more beneath the calm logical facade. Fassbender continues his incredible run of roles. Following on from his mesmerizing performance in Shame, here he plays Jung as man torn between his intellect and his sexual desires. In the hands of a less experienced actor we may have seen a more sympathetic Jung character but Fassbender doesn’t feel the need to invoke such characteristics.

Knightly’s physical performance, especially early on, may be very off-putting for some but others must shoulder some of the blame. From all accounts her performance is an accurate display of Spielrein’s physical ailments however Cronenberg places the camera so close to Knightly every physical tick or jutting jaw she makes is amplified ten-fold. Also the script doesn’t allow enough transition time for Spielrein to go from patient of Jung to student. However once that transition is complete, Knightly proves she is equal to her more experienced co-stars.

Vincent Cassell has a small, comical but pivotal role as a sex crazed patient of Jung’s who turns the tables on his psychiatrist and convinces Jung to give in to his primal urges.

Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender; left) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) engaged in thoughtful discussion.

Where the film really shines though is when Jung and Freud are on screen together. Their conversations inside Freud’s smoke filled apartment are humorous, engaging and thought provoking. There is a mutual respect between the two characters as well as a professional rivalry. The actors are very comfortable in their roles and the dialogue never feels like we are attending a lecture on psychoanalysis. It is a shame there are not more of these scenes between Freud and Jung. Perhaps that would have made a good film great.

There are many themes running through the film including anti-semitism and class systems and Cronenberg does well to subtly infuse his film with them. The film certainly looks and feels like early twentieth century Europe and credit must go to the production team and cinematographer Peter Suschitzky for bringing the era to life so vividly.

For those expecting a sordid, mind-bending erotic piece on psychoanalysis from Cronenberg (aside from a few Keira Knightly spanking scenes) you will be disappointed. But if it is a well acted and thoughtful adult drama you seek, then look no further.