By Dan Metcalf
Clipper Film Correspondent
World War Z (Paramount)
Rated PG-13 for intense frightening zombie sequences, violence and disturbing images.
Starring Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Ludi Boeken, Fana Mokoena, David Morse, Elyes Gabel, Peter Capaldi, Pierfrancesco Favino, Ruth Negga, Moritz Bleibtreu, Sterling Jerins, Abigail Hargrove, Fabrizio Zacharee Guido.
Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof and J. Michael Straczynski, based on the book by Max Brooks.
Directed by Marc Forster.
Zombie movies are everywhere, and they keep coming, like zombies. Even Brad Pitt is in on the zombie act, starring in and producing a film adaptation of World War Z, a popular book by Max Brooks.
Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a retired U.N. “investigator” (whatever that is) who is thrust back into action after the rapid, global outbreak of zombieism. Gerry and his wife Karin (Mareille Enos) barely escape the east coast with their two daughters and an Hispanic boy who helps save the family from the walking dead horde inside a New Jersey tenement complex.
After the family finds refuge on board a military ship, Gerry is commissioned to lead a team of investigators to South Korea, where the first zombie warning initiated. Gerry's team doesn't fare very well, but he follows clues that lead him to Israel, where officials have been preparing for zombies for several years. While barely escaping another zombie frenzy in Israel, Gerry continues taking notes on zombie behavior, seeking to discover a means by which they can be dealt with.
Gerry gains passage on a jetliner along with Segen (Daniella Kertesz), a female Israeli soldier who helps him escape the latest attack. During the flight, an unaccounted-for zombie emerges from the cargo hold, causing the plane to crash in Wales, where a secret World Health Organization lab exists. Gerry and Segen survive the crash and join with WHO doctors inside the lab to find a way to defeat the zombies.
The first three quarters of World War Z are incredible, with plenty of non-stop action, scary sequences and true drama. The special effects used to portray zombies as viscous, aggressive creatures (unlike the standard “walking” dead people) are outstanding. Pitt's performance as an action hero is welcome and well played. Other cast members are equally brilliant, including Kertesz as Gerry's heroic helper and James Badge Dale as a tough soldier with an acerbic wit during the zombie encounter in Korea.
The last quarter of World War Z isn't bad, but it doesn't quite fit the pace of the rest of the film. After experiencing all the chaos of the zombie apocalypse, the end of the movie comes to an abrupt halt, feeling more like a horror film, or at least a creepy visit to the doctor's office. There were plenty of problems for World War Z's producers surrounding the creation of a plausible ending, and it shows.
World War Z is rated PG-13, but it could have easily been given an “R” with the same kind of gore most audiences have become accustomed to in other zombie movies. The downplaying of conventional zombie gruesomeness seen in similar movies feels very deliberate, perhaps to keep younger summer audiences interested. Even without all the traditional zombie splatter, World War Z is often frightening, so keep the little kids at home - with the doors locked - just in case.