Zombies. Love ‘em or hate ’em, they’re here to stay, apparently. I mean, think about it. This latest binge-of-the-undead started in 2002 with Danny Boyle’s excellent 28 Days Later. (Resident Evil was also that year, but it was more of a Matrix rip-off than a traditional zombie flick.)
Now, eleven years later we have World War Z, which is about as far from Night of the Living Dead in concept and execution to make one question whether it’s even the same genre. And it’s not. NotLD is a horror picture. This (like the Resident Evil series) is an action flick with zombies.
And, as far as action-based zombie flicks go, this isn’t a bad one. In fact, it starts off pretty smart. Brad Pitt is passable as some sort of retired spook whose actions once he realizes something is afoot seem reasonably plausible (if improbably lucky) and the action is fairly well choreographed. Marc Forster (Machine Gun Preacher, Finding Neverland) has a sure hand and moves the proceedings along at a good pace.
When Pitt is rescued by his military buddies and taken to an aircraft carrier (also smart!) things take a turn for the silly. Despite having seen two big eastern seaboard cities wiped out by zombies, when The Company (I don’t remember what actual agency it was, if any was mentioned) tells Pitt they need him back out in the field to try to get to the bottom of these spooky hijinx, he has a heart-to-heart with his wife (Mireille Enos, “Big Love”) that goes something like this:
Brad: They want me to go out and save the world.
Mireille: No, you can’t!
Brad: I don’t want to. I have to.
Mireille: I’ve seen what this job did to you.
Wait a tick. What?
This is one of my biggest pet peeves about post-apocalyptic stuff: The idea that the trivial concerns of yesterday matter. “Falling Skies” and “Walking Dead” do this all the time. On one of those shows, when a young boy wants to learn to shoot a gun (reasonable and necessary in both circumstances) the parent says something like “He deserves to have a childhood.”
Sorry, you’re not surviving the apocalypse, buddy.
It takes a further turn into silliness when Pitt visits Israel. In a conspiracy reminiscent of 9/11, the Jews knew all along! Actually, the truth as a revealed makes a lot of sense and Israel would be pretty well suited to surviving an apocalypse of this sort, but what actually happens on screen is kinda dopey. Kinda way dopey.
There’s some other very serendipitous stuff past that, but ultimately the movie isn’t weighed down by the silliness, and there are yet many good parts mixed in with the typical dopiness. There also wasn’t a ton of look-at-me-CGI; there’s a fair amount of CGI but it doesn’t drag the movie down much.
The Boy and I recommend, if not wildly enthusiastically.