Brad Pitt's character in "World War Z," an ex-U.N. crisis specialist called back into action, faces the daunting task of stemming a global zombie pandemic. The film itself has also faced considerable trials, including extensive reshoots and a six-month delay. But according to many movie critics, "World War Z" mostly succeeds and it has Pitt to thank for that.
The Times' Kenneth Turan said that although parts of "World War Z" are formulaic, "it's good to have Pitt in the one-man-against-the-apocalypse role. Though nothing about this part is a particular challenge, it's satisfying to see the actor handling being an old-school Mr. Intrepid without breaking a sweat."
Regarding the production difficulties, Turan wrote, "'World War Z' plays a bit like a series of separate films and the juncture where the new final act was grafted on to the proceedings is unmistakable, but unless you knew about the film's troubled past, you'd never guess it existed. Against considerable odds, the ability and professionalism of the cast and crew have carried the day."
Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal agreed that "World War Z" works -- "against heavy odds." He added, "this enjoyable shambles of a sci-fi thriller, directed by Marc Forster in impressive 3-D, stands on its own as a powerful vision of planetary chaos." Pitt, meanwhile, is "the movie's greatest asset" and grounds his character, Gerry Lane, in "unspoken wisdom, unflappable courage and unforced charm."
The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle said the film "is nerve-racking and just keeps coming," and he credits Forster for playing things straight, resulting in "real disturbance and unease." LaSalle added, "At the center of the movie, Pitt is everything he needs to be -- the face that catches your eye in a crowd, believable in action, human and thoughtful, and as pretty as the zombies are ugly. He is an exalted, but casual, representative of the human race. He also knows how to listen and let the featured players have their moments."
The New York Times' A.O. Scott called "Z" "pretty refreshing" and added, "Its action set pieces are cleverly conceived and coherently executed in ways that make them feel surprising, even exciting. Brad Pitt ... wears a scruffy, Redfordesque air of pained puzzlement. And, best of all, 'World War Z' ... reverses the relentless can-we-top-this structure that makes even smart blockbusters feel bloated and dumb."
The Village Voice's Stephanie Zacharek said that "if nothing else, World War Z shows off some horrifically effective filmmaking," including an early set piece on the streets of Philadelphia. She added, "Forster moves the action forward deftly scene by scene, yet the movie ends up feeling sprawling and empty, a 'zombies invaded the world and all I got was a lousy T-shirt' enterprise."
That said, "all that matters in 'World War Z' is Brad Pitt," who is "a deeply comforting presence, the dad who promises to take care of everything -- everything! -- and actually manages to do so."
The Boston Globe's Ty Burr said, "'World War Z' really shouldn’t be any good at all," but added that "what sounds ridiculous on paper turns out to be a gripper on the screen. 'World War Z' is epically realized entertainment that feeds on our fears of apocalypse, but it’s just fast enough and smart enough -- and, more importantly, human enough -- to keep an audience on edge from start to finish."
Speaking of humans, Pitt "moves through the mayhem not as a strutting superhero but a capable and very worried guy with a wife and kids back home," and some of the film's most affecting scenes center on the relationships he forges with other characters. In the end, against "steep odds," Burr said, "'World War Z' works."