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New Release Review - World War Z

A catastrophic zombie outbreak engulfs the world.

Directed by: Marc Forster
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, David Morse, Peter Capaldi, Daniella Kertesz, Ruth Negga, Fana Mokoena


Gerry Lane (Pitt), a former United Nations employee who once specialized in crisis management, is now a stay at home Dad, living contentedly in a Philadelphia suburb. One morning, while dropping his two daughters to school and his wife, Karen (Enos), to work, all hell breaks loose in the city streets. A section of the population appears to have gone insane, randomly attacking others. Gerry and family commandeer an abandoned RV and flee the city. Thierry (Mokoena), the Under Secretary of the U.N, arranges to have the Lanes rescued and taken to an aircraft carrier, but Gerry must vow to return to the field to find an answer to the epidemic.
Since Zack Snyder brought the zombie movie into the mainstream with 2004's 'Dawn of the Dead' remake, we've been flooded with takes on the genre that won't stay dead, but none can boast the scale of this adaptation of Max (son of Mel) Brooks' novel, which boasts a budget around the $200 million mark. The best zombie movies, usually out of economic necessity, have been based around one specific location; think of 'Night of the Living Dead's farmhouse, 'Dawn of the Dead's shopping mall, 'Pontypool's radio station. 'World War Z' subverts this notion, giving us a film with a travelogue structure, as Gerry jets around the globe looking for a solution to the planet-wide crisis. In this sense, it feels like a James Bond movie with zombies. Unfortunately the Bond movie it most resembles is director Forster's atrocious 'Quantum of Solace'.
Where to begin with the many issues of 'World War Z'? Well, for a start, Forster has once again proven himself incapable of staging action sequences. As with his Bond effort, the set pieces here are edited to death, with a level of shaky cam and quick cutting that would make Michael Bay dizzy. Why Hollywood thought the director of 'Monster's Ball' would be a good fit for summer blockbusters is one of today's great mysteries. It's telling that the movie's only effective set-piece takes place in a confined location, and it's one which requires the characters to remain silent. When you've spent $200 million, it's problematic when the only impressive scene involves nothing more than a few corridors.
However bad Forster's direction is, it's difficult to see anyone making something decent from this script. Despite the contributions of four writers, including the dreaded Damon Lindelof, it's a complete mess. How can four writers tackle the script without noticing the gaping plot-holes that made it to screen?
Mild spoilers to follow.
We learn that a U.S military outpost was attacked by zombies 12 days before the worldwide outbreak but nobody in the U.S found out about this because an email sent from the facility was dismissed for containing the word "zombie". Wait...what? Did nobody at this outpost ever consider picking up the phone and calling someone in the states? Are we really supposed to believe they made no further contact after the email was ignored? We also learn that Israel learned about the epidemic nine days before the mass outbreak and erected a giant wall around the country. Nobody seems to have noticed this, despite Israel being arguably the most media-monitored country on the planet. If an Israeli sneezes it makes headlines in the West but the world's media seems to think the erection of a giant wall isn't newsworthy? I'm almost starting to think Hollywood producers insist on purposely including these plot-hole clangers just to give us something to talk about and thus keep their movies relevant.
To be honest, I could live with this level of dumb if the movie was in any way fun, but it's sadly not. This could be the first zombie movie where nobody gets bitten on screen. I could be wrong but I'm struggling to recall such a moment. It's certainly the most bloodless. Not one drop is spilled on screen, all in service of a family friendly cert. Any carnage is represented in a blurry, chaotic background.
We're given no explanation as to how the zombies are formed. Are they rising from the dead? What makes some people turn but not others? What triggered the sudden worldwide outbreak? I presume these questions are tackled in the source novel but certainly not here.
The reshoots and delayed release have been well publicized but, frankly, this script should never have gotten to the shooting stage with so many problems. If nothing else, it confirms it's probably time to put this genre out of its misery with a well aimed head-shot.
4/10


Eric Hillis

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