Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it. And as it turns out, zombies do it as well. They swarm. And when they're done swarming, they swarm all over again.
That unstoppably manic movement is the most unexpected part of
FOR THE RECORD:
"World War Z": The review of the movie "World War Z" in the June 21 Calendar section misidentified one of the film's editors, Matt Chesse, as Mark Chesse. —
Based loosely on the book by Max Brooks, "World War Z" is in some ways less a zombie movie than the story of a global pandemic and the heroic individual (guess who) trying to stop it. Think
The presence of four credited writers (screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Drew Goddard &
"World War Z" plays a bit like a series of separate films and the juncture where the new final act was grafted onto 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.
It doesn't hurt, obviously, to have a director whose eclectic resume ("Monster's Ball," "The Kite Runner,"
The film opens with the obligatory but mercifully brief happy family scenes where Pitt's character, Gerry Lane, is established as a stay-at-home Philadelphia dad who doesn't seem to do anything more strenuous than make pancakes for breakfast.
Then, with out-of-nowhere suddenness, as Gerry is stuck in traffic with wife Karen (a worried-looking
Splendidly orchestrated by second-unit director and stunt coordinator Simon Crane (who had a hand in the
The attacks have barely begun before Gerry gets a call from U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Thiery Umutoni ("Hotel
Gerry is loathe to come out of retirement (the guy really likes his pancakes) but with the help of a daring helicopter rescue he and his family are deposited on an aircraft carrier, perhaps the planet's only safe zone, and Gerry is essentially blackmailed into accompanying a young scientist to South Korea, where it's thought the zombie-making began.
"Mother Nature is a serial killer, she wants to get caught, she leaves bread crumbs, she leaves clues," the scientist memorably says. What seems like the epidemic's strengths can mask a weakness.
It's in Israel, where the plot takes Gerry next, that "World War Z's" visual centerpiece erupts. Roused from a dormant state by noise, or so the film posits, the zombies form an angry hoard that so swarms one on top of the other that they form a pyramid that allows them to surmount a protecting wall. Long shots of this CGI happening, some taken from a helicopter, will not soon be forgotten.
What transpires after this gets a bit formulaic, but 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.
At one point, if press reports are to be believed, "World War Z" was supposed to have a sociopolitical subtext. That is largely gone, but what remains is a film smartly enough made to help us understand why so many are so fixated on the undead.
In a world where we all feel more threatened than we ever have by myriad forces beyond our control, from global warming to spying governments, it is comforting perhaps to see the personification of these fears in creatures that also cannot be stopped. Unless Brad Pitt gets in the way.
'World War Z
MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense, frightening zombie sequences, violence and disturbing images
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Playing: In general release