WORLD WAR Z
starring Brad Pitt and George Romero as "The Beav."
Gerry Lane, special agent (Pitt) for the United Nations, seems to have settled into retirement and family life quite nicely. That is until a bizarre plague spreads across the world that turns people into rabid zombies. As the pandemic grows, armies, governments, and even entire nations fall into chaos. In order for the government to keep his family sheltered from the fall of civilization, Lane is commanded to undertake a mission that spans the globe to find the source of...and hopefully the cure for...the zombie apocalypse.
In the interest of full disclosure, I need to make two things clear.
First of all, I find the whole thing with zombies to be trite and redundant by this point.
Secondly, I have never read the book World War Z by Max Brooks. I have, however, heard great things about it and from what I can gather, this is yet another case where the book surpasses the film.
Brooks wrote the book as a series of depositions, firsthand accounts from survivors of and combatants in the zombie apocalypse. I've read interviews where Brooks cites the literary organization and style of Studs Terkel's The Good War and Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead as scaffolds upon which to hang his own opus. What's more, Brooks did extensive research on international affairs and global economics and wove it into the text. That sets it above your typical "zombie apocalypse" tripe. Most of that is lost in this film from what I can see.
Instead, you get a very Hollywood-ized version of all of that. You know, skim through the parts with depth and keep things moving with a lot of CGI? Online reviewers complained that numerous opportunities were missed to show the actual battles of this "World War" that the characters find themselves immersed in. I know, that would be expensive. I fully understand that a film version of such a book presents numerous problems (in fact it might be better suited as a limited TV series), but I can't help but think one could come up with something better than this.
Still, there are positives. For one thing, we actually don't see all that much of the zombies. They become shadowy shapes in the background for the most part (save for the whole sequence in Jerusalem, that is.) The film instead becomes something of a military thriller. For somebody who is sick of zombies, that suits me fine.
There is also the spectacle of apocalypse. If you're anything like me (and I know I am), the human race has given you plenty of reasons lately to believe it is too stupid, too greedy, and too arrogant to survive. As the products of human hubris and the temples of Mamon begin to come apart, especially in the tension-filled early scenes, you can taste the panic. You sense the karmic payback on a global scale. The direction and cinematography are at their best when depicting wide shots of the collapse. The acting is at its best when government and military officials are portrayed as impotent and befuddled.
It's that sensibility that may be what makes this a somewhat pertinent film. The zombies could be seen as that pandemic that we know is coming, that virulent virus we have yet to come across but we know is waiting for us. In fact, I saw re-watched this film when all of the "Ebola crisis" news was breaking. Eerie similarities indeed.
This is by no means pabulum for the discerning palate, but it is at least entertaining. Worth a look on Netflix. Fun bit of trivia: Peter Capaldi, the current incarnation of The Doctor on Doctor Who, plays a doctor in the World Health Organization. His listing in the credits? "W.H.O. Doctor."
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