REVIEW: “World War Z”

World War Z poster

There’s one absolute in this modern movie age. It’s a certainty that goes unquestioned. Zombies always attract an audience. Hollywood loves zombies and it’s evident by the loads of flicks we get featuring the undead. We get zombie horror, zombie comedies, heck we even got a zombie teen romance picture earlier this year (here’s my shameless plug for my review of “Warm Bodies”). More than big superhero movies or the incessant raunchy comedies, zombies have proven to be a force in modern cinema.

So that brings us to the goofy titled “War War Z”. This strategically muted apocalyptic zombie film is loosely based on the novel by Max Brooks and stars golden boy Brad Pitt. In the film he plays Gerry Lane, a former United Nations worker and now full-time family man. While stuck in heavy downtown Philadelphia traffic with his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and their two daughters, chaos breaks loose in the form of a deadly zombie pandemic. The film wastes absolutely no time thrusting us into the chaos. No overtelling of a origin and no deeply thought out structuring of the narrative. The story of “World War Z” begins in the most basic of ways but it’s very effective. We quickly see the threat, we learn of its massive scale, and the stakes are raised.

With world cities devastated and governments is disarray, humanity tries to put together some line of defense. Gerry reluctantly volunteers to help in exchange for protection for his family. One of the best things about Pitt’s character is that he avoids most of the common trappings. How many times in films like this have you seen lead characters suddenly become tough guy buttkickers? That never happens here. Gerry isn’t a military man and so often it’s soldiers escorting him through danger. Now that doesn’t mean he’s a wimp. In fact his intellect and instinct are often used to get out of some pretty tough spots. I liked the approach.

World War Z 2

Plagued (pun intended) by setbacks and production delays, “World War Z” looked doomed to failure. Several rewrites and reshoots pushed the film back from its original December 2012 release date. But where that’s often a cause to worry, here it definitely was a plus. I had a blast with the film, more than I originally expected. It pulls elements of horror, big budget action, and clinical thrillers and mixes them together in what I found to be a highly entertaining experience. It doesn’t do anything to reinvent the wheel yet I did find it was able to develop its own look and feel while staying in familiar territory. One minute we are walking through creepy, dimly lit hallways and another moment we’re watching the infected invade cities via some amazing set pieces. Again, familiar stuff but wonderfully conceived.

Now there’s no denying that “World War Z” intentionally takes a very PG-13 approach to what could be a very R-rated story. Some will undoubtedly find fault with that and in some ways I can see their point. But there’s an impressive craftiness to how director Marc Forster realizes the film and I think it works. He also delivers some amazing visual sequences that are still swirling around in my head. Scenes which looked a bit questionable in the trailer actually translated well for me in the film and he maintains a crisp and fluid pace that I never found dull or lethargic.

World War Z 1

I also have to get back to Pitt. He gives a very committed performance and he provides us with a character that never gives us cause to lose our rooting interest. He feels real and grounded which makes his circumstances all the easier for the audience to invest in. I found myself caring for him and for what happened to him and watching him navigate the dangers (sometimes surviving with luck that only a movie can provide) was made the more thrilling because if that.

Now I know some of my fellow horror brethren will cry foul because of the many things this movie dodges. I also know many will dog it for not breaking any new ground. I also have to say it’s one if the worst implementations of 3-D I’ve every seen. Talk about a pointless distraction. But there is something key that it does extremely well – something that is often times forgotten when it comes to making movies. I’m talking about storytelling. I found this to be intense, fun, and most importantly a well structured and well told story. It’s an easy movie for some folks to pick apart and honestly it does open itself up to that. But boy I had fun with this flick and as a zombie fan this was pure undead pleasure with just the right touch of humanity.

I took some ribbing but “World War Z” was one of my more anticipated films of 2013. I gotta say as months passed and the trailers hit the web my skepticism grew. But now it’s safe to say I feel vindicated. This is an honest and straightforward movie that’s certainly made for a broader audience. But I certainly don’t hold that against it especially when it grabs me and doesn’t let’s go. It’s simple escapist entertainment and it’s a fun reminder of why I go to the movies.

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

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55 thoughts on “REVIEW: “World War Z”

  1. Great post! I didn’t enjoy it as thoroughly as you did, but I gotta say WWZ really caught me off guard. I didn’t think much of it prior to release, yet after watching I was pleasantly surprised. Again, terrific write up :).

    • Thanks! I really appreciate it. I was initially excited about this flick but my excitement waned as I saw more about it. But I was really surprised at how much I responded to this. Simple yet effective.

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  3. Great review, glad you liked this one too. I was very impressed with how scary the movie managed to be even with a PG-13 rating, and I agree that Pitt was one of the biggest reasons it all worked in the first place

    • “A good bit of zombie fun” – that’s exactly it. It isn’t heavy or ultra scary. It’s just great fun. Well written and well acted. I had a blast.

  4. Loads of enthralling moments in the escape scenes. As one who savored Max Brooks’ brilliant book, however, I feel negative about the film as a whole. Great review, though!

  5. I saw it yesterday and as much as I loved the action, I couldn’t ignore the silly script. Plus it seemed Pitt seemed to be always at the right place at the right time throughout the film. But it was fun and the zombies were awesome!!

    Nice review Keith.

  6. Awesome review! I so want to see this, and you seem to have given it a lot more credit than others chose to. This brings us back to taste :P. I cannot wait to see it!

    • I think this will be a classic case of many people judging it by other zombie movies. That’s pretty unfair.It knows what it wants to be and hits the target dead center. I can appreciate that. Hope you can see it pretty soon.

  7. Glad you liked it, Keith! Many seemed to find the faults, but you found the fun and good in it. 4.5 stars! Wow! If the strength is in the storytelling, then that’s the best strength to have for me.

    • I thought it was good old-fashioned storytelling. Just keep in mind it’s nothing too heavy and it’s not reinventing the wheel. But it’s very honest and more importantly it’s very well done. Loads of fun too!

    • I think you’re exactly right. But it’s so loosely based on the book that I didn’t really factor that in. I just looked at it as a single film and had a ball with it. I juggled my final rating around but I concluded thy I would be being dishonest if I put a lower score. That’s how much fun I had.

  8. Is that out of 5 stars, or out of ten? LOL 😯

    I’ll admit I liked it more than I thought I would, but due to the production difficulties you cite, I was expecting a flaming car crash. It was ok, but…

  9. The movie is good when it gets down to the invasions and surviving the apocalypse, but when it tries to give us a humane-story that’s apparently worth caring about, it trips over itself and does not work. Good review Keith.

    • I think it works very well mainly because of the performance from Pitt and the fact that he’s not some superhero, Rambo type. Sure some things are unbelievably fortunate but as a whole I thought he was grounded character and it really work for me.

  10. Spot-on review, Keith. That is EXACTLY what my thoughts were on the movie. I had a lot fun, liked Pitt, thought it was kinda crafty how they dodged making it a gory R-rated flick, loved the action and suspense sequences, and found the script to be pretty solid. It’s a zombie film for those who usually can’t handle zombies, which is something I can appreciate. It’s definitely one of my favorite movies of the year so far.

    • Fantastic! I’m so glad to hear that I’m not alone in my enthusiasm. I had a time of fun and I’m really anxious to see it again.

      To prove a point you’re making, my wife who usually has nothing to do with zombie movies gave this a shot. She also really like it.

  11. Wow. High marks. I’m glad you enjoyed it. The film then accomplished what it set out to do for you. Not so much for me, but it wasn’t bad. Hated the tidy ending.

    Curious…what would you have named World War Z?

    • I really didn’t think the ending was all that tidy. I don’t want to give anything away but the stakes were still really high. There were a lot of unanswered questions and I actually liked that.

  12. Keith, I enjoyed this film I really did. However, perhaps a little bit less than you did. The choppiness of the film (you could almost tell when another screenwriter was used) and the lack of gore in a zombie film sort of dragged down things for me. However, despite it’s flaws this still had a lot of tension and was a fun watch.

  13. Loved it also! Awesome review! I’m glad to see that I’m seeing a lot more praise for it than the first few reviews I was seeing go up! Its a very good movie that sucked me throughout the whole movie 🙂

  14. Avoided reviews of this until I’d seen it myself. I originally had high hopes for it because I’m a massive fan of the book, I then lowered them following the production disaster and very loose adaptation. Still I was pleasantly surprised and found that I enjoyed it for what it was, a fast paced global thriller about zombies with some great set pieces rather than a gore-loaded zombie film. The final third disappointed however.

  15. Bummer I couldn’t go to the screening as I had to fly back to Indo. I’ve got a guest review waiting to be posted and this one seems to have exceeded people’s expectations. I probably end up renting this one.

    • It was more fun than I anticipated (even though it was one of my more anticipated films of the year). My wife even enjoyed it (and she’s certainly no zombie fan! LOL). Look for more about it on my site tomorrow. 😉

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  17. Enjoyed the review, even if I didn’t like the film as much as you! It’s good that you were pleasantly surprised by it after the wait though. I definitely enjoyed certain aspects of it – I think the big city chase sequences were really well done – but ultimately just found too much that annoyed me to be positive about it.

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  19. I think the fact that WWZ lowered everyone’s expectations so much is the best thing that could’ve happened to it. I had a blast watching it and I was definitely impressed. Brad Pitt was great as well.

    Nice review!

  20. It’s good to see another fan of this, and while I wasn’t super-impressed, I remained impressed. I didn’t think Pitt would be good here because he’s just TOO big of an actor to be able to feel the part of a man who’s caught up in a global pandemic and must remain calm to reach a solution (if possible). Like you, I was also surprised by how well some of the bigger set pieces translated on the big screen from the trailers.

    • Oh I’m a huge fan I it. I had a blast with it. Saw it twice in the theaters and just bought the blu-ray. Like you I was really pleased with Pitt’s performance. I like his performance and I really like the way he was written. They didn’t turn him into some Rambo type character. I really appreciated that.

      • Definitely. You know another thing I dug about it? The fact that the zombies moved really quickly here instead of the slow, awkward slog they usually do in tv shows and other movies haha. added to the stress of everything and was more interesting this way.

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  22. I have been discouraged from numerous reviews claiming that it isn’t very good, but I think that I am going to just give it a chance. Escapist entertainment is a good way to put it. It is the same reason I plan to watch Lone Ranger at some point. You should check out the South Park episode ribbing this movie, if you are a fan of the show anyways. Hilarious.

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