World War Z (2013)
Directed by: Marc Forster
Written by: Damon Lindelof, Drew Goddard, Matthew Michael Carnahan, Max Brooks
Starring: Brad Pitt, Daniella Kertesz, David Morse, Fana Mokoena, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, Mireille Enos
World War Z (2013)
(15) Running time: 116 minutes
Director: Marc Forster
Writers: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof, Max Brooks
Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Fana Mokoena
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
It is no secret that Marc Forsters ambitious adaptation of the Max Brooks graphic novels, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, has had some production issues. Way back at the start of production some eighty guns and weapons were seized by SWAT teams in Budapest after they were brought in to the country without permission, and from then on things continued to get worse. The film went way over budget, the script was re-written by at least two new writers, the finale had to have some seven weeks of reshoots, and Forster and star and producer Brad Pitt fell out. Apparently at the London premiere last week, things still looked tense between Forster and Pitt, and the director was noticeably nervous when introducing his film.
When a production has gone so horribly wrong, you would naturally expect the worst. However, Apocalypse Now had one of the worst productions ever, and look how that turned out! Now, I am not saying that World War Z is up there with the likes of Apocalypse Now, but for all the bad press and worrying reports, the end result is actually rather good. Firstly though let’s get the graphic novels reference out of the way first, shall we? I haven’t read them, but I have read lots of comments regarding just how close Forster kept to the source material, and it sounds like he has barely used anything from the novels apart from the name, so if you are going in to this film hoping to see your beloved graphic novel created on screen, then think again.
In the film Brad Pitt plays Gerry, a former UN investigator who is now a very content family man looking after his wife and two kids. A very brief introduction during the first five minutes tells us all we need to know about this loving family, and sets up the later emotional scenes nicely. Forster was actually handpicked by Pitt to direct this film, with the knowledge that he could handle the emotional events well, and he does. The family’s introduction is simple, gentle and effective enough to have us on their side immediately. Forster then heads straight into the action, and in less than ten minutes we are right in the middle of a mass zombie outbreak, and these bastards are fast and aggressive. Cleverly, in the opening twenty minutes the first scene involving the undead hides the zombies well, and this in turn helps create tension. It also helps us feel just how frantic the confusion is, and we figure out what is going on as Gerry does. The opening twenty minutes of World War Z is simply astonishing, and will have you questioning just what the hell all the panic was about with this film.
Forster directs the action with ease, and the effects are simply terrific. The sound is likely to pierce ear drums, and the entire sequence is up there with some of the best film build ups and executions ever filmed. It is jaw dropping stuff, tense as hell and in parts, quite scary. Never wasting a second, Forster delivers a sequence that drops us slap bang in the middle of the chaos, and it is all go from there. Gerry eventually joins with government officials and the military as “the only man who can get the job done”. And by that, it means Gerry jetting off around the world to find a cure, while his family wait for him on a government ship housing “those which are needed”. Political nonsense comes into effect on this ship later, as stragglers are sent packing and emotions run high. However, the film is almost entirely based with Gerry as he flies off with a team to find the origins of the zombie virus, and hopefully a cure.
When the film’s pace does slow, Forster continues to create superb tension out of sounds, dialogue and some truly amazing cinematography. A plane landing at night will seriously test your nerves as the music and lighting is used to jaw dropping effect, silence is used throughout the film to create tension, and effective jump scare moments are used when you least expect them. The zombies in this film are actually scary, and comes across as 28 Days Later’s distant cousin. They run, jump, bite and scream to get to their dinner, and scenes will literally have you screaming for those not effected to get the hell out of dodge. Teeth chatter and limbs bend, and the effective zombies will give you the shivers in places. There is also some cool observation into why some zombies are so ferocious, and while others simply stand dormant, waiting for something to move or for a sound to follow. However, and this will probably piss off horror fans most, there is a serious lack of blood in this film, hinting that maybe the aim was to get as many people to the cinema as possible.
In fairness, World War Z is one of the biggest budgeted horror films ever, and if the aim was to cross over for mass appeal to those outside the horror genre, then it has worked. This could easily be marketed as an action film, but in doing so, you risk damaging your key audience, and I worry that the film just might be a little too tame for its subject matter. Saying that though, what World War Z lacks in blood it certainly makes up for in tension. Numerous big set pieces will leave you breathless: whether it is creeping around a science lab in full on stealth mode, to a gigantic zombie invasion in Israel, Forster proves he has immense skill. The films big centre piece is the scene in Israel that has filled the trailers and clips released, and my God it is an awesome sight. Zombies run through the streets literally biting and destroying everything, and from the air they look like crazed insects devouring a new territory. The shots from the air really show off the epic scale of this massive film, and the effects are flawless. The scene also shows just how fast the outbreak can spread, and while the frantic action takes place, you will also find a serious chill creeping up your spine.
World War Z delivers, believe me, and it contains some of the most tense moments you are likely to see this year in a big budget film. It will appeal to a mass audience, and no doubt there will be those who love it, and those who will seriously hate it. The horror fans will definitely have their complaints, but if you like big, epic films on a grand scale, then this film really delivers. Such is the tension and jaw dropping set pieces, I am willing to forgive the lack of blood which would normally come through zombie films. This film is all about creating something tense, frightening and keeping you on the edge of your seat, and Forster has done himself proud. There is plenty here for everyone, and believe me when I say this, there are plenty of scares for the horror crowd to enjoy. I thought World War Z was magnificent: big, ballsy, brave and brilliant, it delivers technically and emotionally, and at times will literally take your breath away. A job well done