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World War Z: Production problems don’t slow this zombie flick down

Published 8:32am Friday, June 28, 2013

by Lauren Bradshaw

Although I am a huge fan of Brad Pitt, his new movie World War Z, based loosely on Max Brooks’ 2006 best-selling book of the same name, had me worried. For months, we have been hearing about the film’s immense production problems. From script rewrites to prop guns being seized by Hungarian authorities to even a complete third act re-shoot, I was worried World War Z was going to be a lot more over-budget than overwhelming. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised by the end product. While it certainly still has its issues, World War Z is a decent zombie film that invokes as much edge-of-your-seat suspense as it does genuine fear about a global pandemic. As summer blockbusters go, I think most moviegoers will be entertained.

The film focuses on Gerry (Brad Pitt), a former UN investigator who left the organization in order to spend more time with his wife (Mirielle Enos) and kids in the suburbs of Philadelphia. After a pancake breakfast, Gerry and his family head through the streets of Philadelphia on their way to school. Everything seems to be normal in the gridlocked city streets until a huge garbage truck with a deranged man starts barreling down the road. With his UN experience, Gerry senses something is wrong and quickly evacuates his family, also paying close attention to the crazed individuals that are quickly terrorizing the streets and spreading the “disease”. He recognizes that the rabies-like symptoms begin about twelve seconds after a person is bitten by an infected individual. “What virus or disease is this?” Gerry wonders, while on the phone with his old boss Thierry Umutoni, the Deputy Secretary General of the UN.

Because of Gerry’s skills at investigative work, Umotoni agrees to evacuate him and his family to the country’s only safe haven, an aircraft carrier lying 200 miles off the coast of New York City. After a battle with some of the infected, Gerry and his family make it safely to the carrier. However, the only people allowed on the ship are those essential members of the United States government; this means Gerry’s family can stay on the ship if he agrees to take on the responsibilities of his old job and find the cause of the outbreak. It couldn’t possibly be zombies could it? Gerry must travel to such places as South Korea, Israel, and Wales to locate patient zero and discover what is causing the dangerous illness. Are some countries faring better than the U.S.? More importantly, is there a cure?

For a PG-13 movie, World War Z did a fantastic job keeping me on the edge of my seat. At many points throughout the film, I had to remind myself to breathe! Since these zombies are extremely fast and are drawn to noises, I found the silent scenes especially terrifying. So much so, I guess I was afraid my breathing would get Gerry caught (though as you’ll see, he has plenty of clumsy, expendable characters to screw things up for him). I should also admit that while the zombie’s teeth chattering quirk made some laugh, it freaked me out! Anyone else?

Where the PG-13 rating does the film (and quite honestly the zombie genre) wrong, however, is its lack of gore. Believe me, I am not a huge fan of gory, over-the-top scenes, but in a zombie film, there has to be SOMETHING that makes you cringe and feel queasy. I find it almost blasphemous for a zombie movie to be this tame. In fact, in some scenes it was hard to figure out what was happening. Did Gerry just bludgeon a zombie to death? We may never know. To put it another way, zombie fans, there is a LOT more gore on The Walking Dead than in this film.

Brad Pitt is the heart and soul of this film. I totally saw him in Gerry, a family man, who is incredibly passionate about the world and his role in it. Not only did I really enjoy his performance, but he proved once again what a true leading man he is. After all, the film focuses solely on Gerry and his experiences; the camera only leaves his side in order to show the audience that his family is still safe on the aircraft carrier. Supporting characters are just that, supporting. Not even Matthew Fox (Lost) had a big role! He is in the film in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him moment and is only known on IMDB as “Parajumper”. What would Dr. Jack Shephard have to say about that? No character name? ! Perhaps his role is lying on the cutting room floor.

In any event, World War Z fought through its production woes to become a decent zombie film. While some zombie fans may get angry about the lack of proper gore, the film puts an interesting twist on the typical zombie movie. I was especially interested in the ways each country dealt with their living-dead problem, especially North Korea and Israel. World War Z is not the best zombie movie of the year (I think that credit goes to Warm Bodies) but it will definitely have you on the edge of your seat.

My Review: B+/B

LAUREN BRADSHAW grew up in Courtland, graduated from Southampton Academy and doubled-majored in foreign affairs and history at the University of Virginia. She lives in the Washington, D.C., and can be reached at lnb5e@virginia.edu.

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