Every hardcore film fan and their dog have shared their thoughts on World War Z. The most common thought was that it was going to be a bad film, with 45 minutes of footage dumped and another 45 minutes written and shot, how could it be good? With all these cooks in the kitchen, it was easy to believe it would be a disjointed mess. Paramount and Brad Pitt had to battle bad production, bad press and bad luck to get their gigantic zombie film to the big screen. But was the juice worth the squeeze or have all the missteps along the way derailed a potential great film?
World War Z follows Gerry Lane, a United Nations investigator who, with his family, is saved from a rooftop in New Jersey. Gerry is told by the UN that if he doesn’t go and investigate the breakout he and his family will be taken from safety and forced to live on the mainland, because the UN only want to support people who will help them. Gerry doesn’t hesitate and is quickly dispatched across the world to investigate the origins of a pandemic viral outbreak. Playing out like a quasi-Sherlock Holmes, Gerry jumps from country to country, picking up clues and battling zombies along the way.
World War Z moves at the pace of bullet. We get two minutes with our protagonists before the outbreak hits their hometown of Philadelphia. Panic breaks quickly and they are thrust into action instantly. This continues for 90 minutes, as Brad Pitt’s Gerry races across the globe. There are only a few moments for one to catch their breathe as the film rampages much like the virus it is about. Marc Foster directs this part of the film with ferocity, his close-combat carnage is Bourne-esque, making the film that more brutal and intense. The few wide-shots of zombie pandemonium are included to appease the masses, but for the most part this is a tightly played spy-thriller and not an end of the world special effects extravaganza.
The final 30 minutes slows down and it is obvious these are the majority of the scenes that were added after extensive writing and shooting. World War Z‘s final act is a ballsy choice by the producers and the writers, but one not many will accept. It is minimalist, stripped back and nothing like the 90 minutes that proceed it. In saying that, it works significantly better than the original ending, it uses the appropriate level of skill in our hero instead of turning him into an inhuman killing machine. It is an intense 30 minutes and provides some gasp-worthy moments, however it often feels like a cheap-way out and it doesn’t fill the viewer with satisfaction. It isn’t a big ending and it feels like it just ends, instead of working towards the action the film essentially works in reverse, starting out big and progressively getting smaller and smaller.
Where World War Z falls the hardest though is in its stakes. It provides none, with there being no strong dramatic pull in the film. A lot of the family scenes were shot in the re-shoots to add more meat to the film, but sadly it just doesn’t work. Supporting characters are never developed and Brad Pitt’s Gerry Lane just isn’t the right emotional hook for an audience. Gerry seems to forget his family as quickly as we do and the audience is given no other reason to believe in his cause. It finds a bit of heart in the final 30 minutes, it is just feels like too little too late following 90 minutes of non-stop excitement. I can see a lot of audience members walking out and having had a good time, but never wanting to watch it again and forgetting it even exists. As a disaster film, it really needed that power.
In conclusion, World War Z is a blast to watch. The variety of action is welcome – from the big effects heavy scenes to the close-combat, Marc Foster comfortably nails all aspects that make up his set-pieces. The film is also refreshing, it is like nothing we’ve seen from a blockbuster by hitting horror, disaster and action notes simultaneously. It is intense and thrilling, with the final act likely to leave many gasping for air. Brad Pitt delivers physically, but is never believable emotional. His performance stumbles a lot like the script and the story, it lacks the power to bring it all together and deliver a truly memorable experience.