For a good while it appeared that Brad Pitt's World War Z was not going to be 'the zombie movie to end all zombie movies', just the one to end the career's of Brad Pitt, Marc Forster and a selection of other producers, writers and executives associated with the troubled project. Yet despite extensive re-writes, expensive reshoots and the rumours that members of the production team were no longer even on speaking terms, the final product turned out surprisingly good. World War Z may in fact be one of the best movies to be released this summer trumping Man of Steel and The Fast and Furious 6 in the writing and directing departments.
Within 5 minutes of starting, Dawn of the DeadWorld War Z, jumps straight into action as the world of our main protagonists quickly crumbles and those news reports of that 'strange rabies like virus' that had been causing random skirmishes abroad, suddenly hit home. The buildup to our first encounter with the undead in the middle of the morning rush hour traffic is skilfully handled by director Marc Forster, as the brewing tension generated by low flying helicopters and sporadic background radio reports about cannibalism, slowly slices its way through what should be a mundane morning drive to school.
Once the zombies do appear, World War Z quickly shifts gear into a high octane country hopping adventure. Jumping from North America to South Korea, Israel and Wales, the scenes of wave upon wave of the undead flowing like gushing water down streets, across sports stadiums, climbing walls, and falling from buildings, are disturbing and very unsettling.
Fans of Max Brook's original novel (reviewed here) might be disappointed with this adaptation as the movie significantly departs from the events of the book, especially during one key scene set in the Middle East. Additionally the zombies themselves have a lot more in common with Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later than they do with The Walking Dead.
Not only does World War Z depart from the events of the book, but also from the zombie genre in general. There has not been a zombie movie this original since 28 Days Later as it goes against many typical zombie movie tropes to create something a little more fresh. Its scale is immense. Instead of just focusing on a small group of survivors trapped on a farm or in a shopping mall, the audience gets to see the horrific pace of a global pandemic in action and its capacity to bring our interconnected world to an immediate standstill. This is the focus of World War Z: Not the blood and guts of individuals, but society and humanity on a whole.
However do not go into this film believing it will be a safe family feature. Despite the lack of human entrails, the violence is still brutal, intense and unrelenting. From scenes of people both accidentally and intentionally killing themselves, to lengthy sequences involving a zombie infested apartment building and an overrun World Health Organisation facility, the movie retains a fair amount of typical zombie horror shlock.
However World War Z is far from perfect. There are a few scenes that are devoid of logic including one intense but particularly silly sequence set onboard a plane; whilst an interesting subplot involving the safety of Pitt's on screen family, is quickly muted as inconsequential by the end credits - probably as a result of the numerous re-writes.
Yet the main plot is handled well. Moving swiftly along like a well paced mystery novel, our hero pieces together different clues on how he could fight the disease in a manner that allows for the audience to be involved as well. The clues are presented via casual dialogue, hidden in intense sequences of violence and via other subtle means; whilst a showdown between Pitt and his expendable sidekicks vs a group of 80+ zombies was done particularly well, as it almost breaks the fourth wall with some of the characters on screen becoming one with the viewing audience themselves.
Despite the closed ending (which was obviously written by a screenwriter who was not too confident that a sequel would be green-lit) it is likely that there may well be a part two which will detail other aspects and events that occurred during World War Z. 8/10