An enjoyable mess – ★★★
World War Z was all set to fail. The film has been a laughing stock for close to a year and critics were ready to pan it while audiences were primed to stay away or go and see Man of Steel again. When you add the film’s production and marketing budgets you’re probablycoming close to $300m, and you can spend an age reading about the film’s troubled production and changes – in fact feel free to do that courtesy of Vanity Fair and the Huffington Post. How surprising then that the film isn’t actually too bad.
Brad Pitt’s Gerry used to work for the UN as a crisis zone investigator. He stepped back from that job in order to spend time with his two daughters and wife (an underused Mireille Enos from the US version of “The Killing”). However when a zombie invasion hits and starts to spread across the world he’s re-hired in return for his family’s protection as he jets off to try and find the source of the virus. This trip allows us to go on a nice little journey of segueing Brad Pitt action sequences via New York, New Jersey, South Korea, Israel, Wales and Canada with potential trips to India and Russia being hinted at but never materialising. On his trip he encounters doctors, soldiers, diplomats and scientists. A lot of these bit-part players die in dramatic fashion but you get the impression that the script was engineered to ensure we don’t care too much about anyone other than Brad and his family, which is fine as Brad’s always been very easy to watch on the big screen and World War Z is no different though we don’t get much of him eating unfortunately.
So we’ve got an expensive film with five credited screenwriters and watching the film aware of the troubled production process, you’re left pleasantly surprised that we ended up with such a weird, but quite coherent story. It’s all very straightforward and while it feels like there are bits just missing/cut, you don’t really focus on that too much as the action set-pieces are so solid and well put together. The characters are about as one-dimensional as you’d expect from a summer blockbuster but the short appearances by actors like Peter Capaldi (“The Thick Of It’s” Malcolm Tucker?!), James Badge Dale, David Morse and even Ireland’s very own Ruth Negga keep our interest levels high. LOST’s Matthew Fox is in there too but is featured mainly in longer shots without any lines, so kudos to anyone who spots him or can explain why he was more or less cut out of the film.
The 15A certificate means it’s not as gory as some people would have liked. And aside from a few lines hailing Israel as the smartest country in the world, there isn’t the social commentary we’ve come to expect from films about viruses or zombies. TV’s Walking Dead has more to say about how society falls apart when confronted by crisis like this. And yet despite the glaringly obvious problems you actually find yourself enjoying the end result quite a lot. The rewritten final act that gives us a big plane crash and brings the action to a World Health Organisation facility in Wales is a solid, focused conclusion to the movie.
World War Z jettisons any notions of intelligence or innovation in favour of providing a brain-less jaunt around the world that allows Brad Pitt to kill a few bad-ass zombies. And that’s fine by us.
USA, Malta / Directed By: Marc Forster / Written By: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof, J. Michael Straczynski / Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, David Morse, Peter Capaldi, Ruth Negga / 116min / Action / Release: 21 June 2013 (Ireland, UK, USA, Canada)