Warning: More spoilers than the film’s Wikipedia page.
World War Z
The entertainment industry has been suffering from zombie overload for quite sometime now. And it doesn’t feel like it’s going to end anytime soon. But I’m not totally resentful. Much as I hate the ironically brainless Resident Evil series of films, I like the genre in general. The brilliant Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, The Walking Dead – the tv show and the game are all some offerings everyone should give a try.
I think it safe to say that World War Z belongs in that category. There is no reason why one shouldn’t give it a go. It has got Brad Pitt in it, Marc Foster, who had previously directed Finding Neverland and Quantum of Solace, does a pretty good job here and above all else, it is a thoroughly engaging and entertaining movie.I have not read the Max Brooks novel so I cannot draw any comparisons between the book and the film but, the film itself is tightly paced; it never bores and, despite a few loose plot threads, smartly concludes just before the two hour mark.
The story, though conventional, is moderately engaging. Brad Pitt plays a former UN employee who is called into the field when the world faces a virus(?) outbreak. Infected people turn into zombies, only these zombies are extremely vigorous. They jump about a lot, fall from high places, attack moving vehicles and actively pursue normal people. Apparently, their only goal is to turn everyone else into zombies. No feeding on brains here. Pitt gets bitten in one scene but doesn’t (sadly) turn. I think they mention somewhere in the movie that 5% of the population is immune to the virus (à la I am Legend).
So Pitt’s not too happy about being called back, but does so to help keep his family safe aboard a US Navy vessel (all unnecessary personnel are thrown into ‘safe’ zones on land). Pitt leads a team of SEALS and a guy who is an expert on diseases and for some reason the only guy who can help save the world. The guy accidentally shoots himself dead during a zombie attack as they land in South Korea – the place where they hoped to locate the elusive Patient Zero. Clues lead Pitt to the only country still standing – Israel. Israel fortified Jerusalem when they heard rumours of a zombie outbreak (Given the timeframe, how the hell did they manage that?) – talk about crazy.
Pitt learns that patient zero maybe from India and thinks of getting a flight out. Just when this was starting to turn into ‘Around the Zombie World in 8 hours’, we are rescued by zombies. They heap on one another (the posters show this) and manage to infiltrate the fortifications. Then shit turns crazy. Chaos everywhere as Brad (got tired of typing Pitt all the time) and an Israeli female soldier sidekick try to escape. One zombie bites her, then Pitt hacks her hand off instinctively, thus stopping the virus spread and saving her. Then, they manage to board a plane just about to take off.
As he cleans Ms.Israeli’s wound, Brad has a brainwave. Zombies don’t affect infected people. Apparently, the virus needs a healthy host. A vaccine from a disease can work as a camouflage. A quick telephone call to his UN buddy tells him he must reach a WHO branch in Cardiff. The pilot needed some convincing to change the flight plan, but eventually agreed. Just when things are about to get right, they get worse. There’s a zombie hidden in the bathroom aboard and soon everyone gets infected. Then Brad gets the brilliant idea of blowing up the plane! Conveniently, when the plane crash-lands near Cardiff, Brad and his one-handed sidekick are the only ones alive. They quickly make their way to WHO. After a bit of drama, the resident doctors hatch a plan to get some guys into the B-wing, which is now full of zombie-docs, in the hope of retrieving the facility’s most dangerous pathogen samples. Some tense action later, Brad infects himself and now is immune to zombie-attacks. Wait – wasn’t he immune in the first place? We’ll get to that later. Brad gets back with a bunch of pathogens, news spreads around the world and humans start fighting back. The film ends ominously “This isn’t the end. Not even close.”
The film definitely has some great moments. The opening scenes were great, the zombie pile-up in Israel was beautifully shot, the plane crash, the tense scenes in WHO; the film has the look and feel of a good action thriller. Acting doesn’t really count in fast-paced thrillers but Brad Pitt gives a fine performance, so does Mireille Enos who plays his wife. Zombies were really well represented. They’ve got to be one of my favourite zombies ever created for the big screen. They also kind of reminded me of the head crabs in Half Life.
The plot does go to pieces in places. We’re shown in the beginning that Brad Pitt’s character is not affected by zombie bites, yet he runs around the whole film desperately trying to escape them. Also at the end he infects himself with a fatal pathogen. How does he survive? Won’t infecting people with deadly pathogens kill them anyway. Zombies or no, they’d die right? Many unanswered questions. May be the book did a better job.
Despite some nagging questions and some unconvincing decisions taken by characters, the movie works as an entertainer. Recent news indicating massive box office collections and hints of a possible sequel confirm this fact. Did you know that Leonard DiCaprio was involved in a bidding war over the book’s rights with Brad Pitt’s production company? How different the movie would have been with DiCaprio in it one can only imagine.
All photographs herein are Intellectual Property of Paramount Pictures Corporation.
© Nikhil Narain 2013