It matters very little whether zombies are slow or fast because either way they cause extensive damage, kill many millions and rise to become a gigantic army of undead intent on devouring everyone’s brains. The slow and lumbering zombies bring to mind the films of George A. Romero whose zombies were mostly used for social commentary regarding human and social behaviour. For example in Dawn of the Dead the scenes in which the zombies invade and stumble through the shopping centre are images we see every day in shopping centres across the globe as humans buy crap they really do not need, following each other like sheep as they lap up the latest craze or trend. Films such as 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks later are films that spring to when one mentions fast zombies (though the term zombies is debatable).
A pandemic is spreading around the world, yet again hysteria sets in, but this time the panicky human race’s deep rotted nature of panicking about everything (morals, bird flu, the French) is well founded as a deadly virus appears to be turning everybody into head banging, mindless, flesh chomping zombies. Former UN inspector Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) loves spending his time with his family, but he is blackmailed into assisting the US in locating the source of the spread of this zombifying disease. This leads Gerry Lane to South Korea, but when that hits a dead end Jerusalem, (in Israel for those challenged by such advanced levels of geography), is his next destination.
The zombies in World War Z are quick, very quick, 28 Days Later quick thus the slow will get gobbled up by the huge swarms of very violent zombies, and they perhaps make for a more intimidating foe than the slow ones in the films of Romero (and others). The film opens up with the happy family children jumping on the bed cliché (which follows what feels like 10 years of logos and producers) resulting in groans from the audience thinking ‘it’s not going to be one of those films is it?’ After being introduced to this happy, loving family things quickly turn into a feast. The first outbreak (that we see) occurs in Philadelphia (Glasgow is the filming location); the frantic camera work (from the Paul Greengrass School of filmmaking) captures the chaotic nature of public hysteria that such an event would inevitably bring on. With the basic idea of what’s occurring the opening act sustains a good level of tension as we wait for the boiling pot to explode and the virus to be released in downtown Philly.
The world panics, robbing, looting and bulk buying, essentially making this a great deal easier for those zombies trying to murder us all and add us to their ever growing army. The Lane family (father, mother and two daughters) eventually escape relatively unscathed from a dramatic and tense opening act to an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean where Gerry is blackmailed into assisting the US. From there, the second act begins. However, with the exception of certain scenes some of the well timed and effective jolts and sustained tension of the first act is lost. The siege of Jerusalem, though undeniably it is an impressive spectacle, lacks tension and effective jolts. What also may be off-putting to hardcore zombie gore hounds is the lack of bloody gore. World War Z is clearly edited for a PG-13 audience and because of that World War Z is less gory than the comedy Shaun of the Dead meaning that World War Z will be a zombie movie more appealing to the mainstream rather than those lusting for the gore and social commentary of Romero. However, the film does contain aspects of political commentary surrounding overpopulation and Israel.
The tension returns for the film’s final act. What Marc Foster and his crew do well is superbly magnify any sound that anyone makes (the zombies are drawn to noise). Any crunch of glass, shuffle of feet, opening of a door is brilliantly magnified to a million times its original volume. Every crunch of grass underneath a character’s feet always results in wince from the viewer. All performers do their job, Brad Pitt’s central performance is effective enough and Peter Capaldi (the next doctor) dials down the swearing considerably. However, there are a number of issues. Firstly, if you can’t figure out the plot twist you clearly are not trying hard enough (it is very obvious, and a mystery to why only one person can figure it out). The emotional aspect of the story leaves a lot to be desired (not much time is spent on Gerry’s family), and the fact a young child seems completely unperturbed by his parents death essentially results in the impact of each human death to be completely minimal.
World War Z may not appeal greatly to the hardcore fans of the zombie genre (lack of gore being the main factor), but despite its flaws World War Z’s sustained tension in the first and final acts and enjoyable nature throughout its running time makes the film good fun. The question over whether the film is a good adaptation of Max Brooks’ cult satirical novel is one I can’t answer (general consensus is it isn’t), but as a standalone film World War Z is enjoyable.