Release date: 20th June 2013

Director: Marc Foster

Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, David Morse

Review by Peter Gray

Those that know their movie news will be aware that it’s been a particularly arduous trek to the screen for ‘World War Z’ with production troubles, inflated budgets, and creative differences just a few of the issues that have plagued its creation.  With those concerns, as well as the original ending being gutted in favour of a re-written forty minute arc, you’d be forgiven for treading carefully so naturally it’ll come as a surprise that not only is ‘World War Z’ good, it’s actually kind of great.

I do need to get this out of the way first though; the feature film is nothing like the readings on which it is based so if you are a fan of Max Brooks’ novel prepare to be disappointed.  Instead of individualised accounts, the film focuses solely on the character of Gerry (Brad Pitt), a former United Nations employee now stay-at-home-dad who is unexpectedly thrust into the middle of a mass zombie epidemic that appears to be consuming the world at a rapid rate.  The material here has a familiar feel to it, unlike the novelisation, so if you’re hoping for a zombie genre reinvention or any social relevance, again you’ll be let down.  Familiar as it may be, it doesn’t deter the film from being any less enjoyable as it wastes little time in getting to the action and once it starts, we’re barely given time to catch our breath.

One thing that proves beneficial to ‘World War Z’ is its characterisation of Gerry and his family.  Pitt and Mireille Enos as both parents and a couple help ground the story which in turn elevate the stakes as we genuinely want to see this family survive.  And even in sequences where Gerry is separated from his wife and daughters, and his entry into combat mode fills a great deal of the films middle section, we still feel that connection which helps in adding a degree of depth to the outlandish situations the film presents.  The situations themselves are easily handled by director Marc Foster who manages to keep things moving quickly and under the refreshing running time of 2 hours.  Foster is a peculiar choice as he’s better known for dramas like ‘Finding Neverland’ and ‘Monster’s Ball’, and though he does have one James Bond film to his name – ‘Quantum of Solace’ – the fact that its action was quite negatively received essentially renders him unqualified in the zombie action stakes, but in keeping with the surprising tone of the film, he proves more than ample behind the camera.

As an action film on its own accord ’World War Z’ works particularly well, and Pitt proves ever the reliable action hero.  For a zombie film it works well enough but I imagine the missing component of blood and gore may irk viewers who have become accustomed to seeing red on such programs as ‘The Walking Dead’, as the low M rating it has received here means many of the carnage is off screen.  Whilst I enjoy my share of bloodshed, it was never an issue I felt here as what ‘World War Z’ lacked in violence was more than made up for in tension and suspense; I trust many an audience member will be so far on the edge of their seat in the final set piece contained in a medical facility of sorts that the absence of blood will hardly be an issue.

Whilst its unnerving to experience the end of world at the hands (or should that be mouths?) of the undead, it can’t be denied how much fun there is to be had along the way as the presentation here is so relentless and enthusiastic in its brutality, it’s difficult to not get swept away.  A far stronger film than it has any right to be, with characters we sympathise with and a swift pace that never overstays its welcome, ‘World War Z’ is a nerve-inducing end of the world thrill ride that deserves to be experienced.

My rating 3.5/5 (Not the disaster we’re expecting)

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