Film Review: Brad Pitt turns zombie hunter in smart, suspenseful ‘World War Z’

Brad Pitt hunts down the cause of a zombie infection spreading the globe in the summer blockbuster "World War Z." Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Brad Pitt hunts down the cause of a zombie infection spreading the globe in the summer blockbuster “World War Z.”

Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

By Amber M. Ward

“World War Z” is action packed, intelligent and suspenseful and, although I am not a big fan of “zombie” movies, this is one I can stand behind because it has brains (no pun intended).

It’s not just action and zombies biting people all over the place. It is investigative and has a bit of mystery surrounding it. “World War Z” revolves around United Nations agent Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt – “Inglourious Basterds”) and his mission to find the cause of the zombie pandemic that has suddenly erupted and is decimating the planet at an alarming rate.

The movie opens in both an innocent and a foreshadowing fashion, showing Lane and his family at home on a regular morning making pancakes, but with the news on talking about martial law, closed borders and rabies outbreaks. It quickly escalates from there as the scene switches to the family being stuck in traffic before all hell breaks loose and they are running for their lives in the streets of Philadelphia as the pandemic dramatically hits home. Witnessing first-hand what these “zombies” can do, Lane’s only objective is to protect his wife (Mireille Enos) and his daughters (Sterling Jerins and Abigail Hargrove) as they flee the city.

The action sequences are gripping and as the family struggles to get to the roof of an apartment building to meet a helicopter, we get a good look at the zombies and how they move. These aren’t your typical slow moving groaners or bloody gnawers; these things are smart, fast and about 10 kinds of nasty. They are creepy with their speed and the way they jerk about when not on the chase.

Not all the film critics liked the movie because of the way the zombies were shot in this plot, but I did.  It allowed the movie to have a PG-13 rating instead of R and I think that’s better for audiences all around. It’s not too bloody or too scary, but still packs a punch. The audience gets a few of the typical zombie popping out of the dark shots, but the filmmakers didn’t focus on the zombies themselves and recurring close-ups, but went instead with a wider angle so that the audience could see the large-scale devastation. Within minutes entire cities and populations are demolished. It makes for a potent visual.

Now Lane has to travel the globe in search of the infection’s origins and battle zombies and numerous obstacles along the way if he wants to protect his family and save humanity. He meets some interesting people along the way, including Dr. Andrew Fassbach (Elyes Gabel), and Segen (Daniella Kertesz) as he travels from South Korea to Israel to Cardiff and more. These people will help him look for and find the clues and roots of the rumors pertaining to the beginning of humanity and its all-encompassing contagion.

The movie is also investigative in a way that makes it more serious with Lane having to travel and interview people to find more clues about the disease. He commands a certain authority wherever he goes and it doesn’t take much to get others on his side. Director Marc Forster uses this technique to create stand-still moments that not only reiterate the seriousness of the situation, but help ease some of the adrenaline from the action and mayhem.

Along with this comes the dialogue. “Movement is life,” says Lane about how to survive in hostile situations. The dialogue is not used for filler, but is rather relevant to the situations at hand. I might add that there is also a nice little monologue from Dr. Fassbach about how “Mother Nature is a serial killer” that not only gives the characters something to think about, but also is truthful and real.

These moments created by dialogue and slower plot also give both the audience and the characters time to think on the mystery of what is happening and see the proverbial bread crumbs that could lead to our salvation. There’s a definitive scene  towards the end of the movie that in a sense, if you think about the situation, is actually very beautiful because it signifies hope for an entire species — our species — and that’s a powerful moment.

Great action, well-matched music, good dialogue, cast and a plot with brains help make this a more-than- decent summer flick. What is this contagion and why do the infected not attack certain people? For the answer to that question you’ll have to see the movie yourself. If you like zombies and action and cool aerial CGI, then head to your local theater for “World War Z.”

“World War Z” currently is showing in both the regular version and 3-D version at the Driftwood 6 Theater at Lake Granbury and the Cinemark theaters in Cleburne and Stephenville, as well as throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Run time: 1 hour, 56 minutes. Rating: PG-13

 Amber M. Ward is a San Angelo-based writer.

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