Wednesday, July 03, 2013

World War Z (2013)

I just had to go see World War Z being an avid "zombie" genre film fan.  I had never read the book by Max Brooks, about eyewitnesses account of the zombie outbreak, but I have read a few chapters here and there and what I read seemed interesting.  What the movie does is compile all those survivors accounts into one character's view of the outbreak.  Gerry Lane played by Brad Pitt is a former employee of the UN's health organization.  He is seen in the first scene of the movie making breakfast for his family.  He has two daughters, and a wife, and we find out that he quit his job due to what it was doing to him.  But that is latter on in the movie, and in the beginning of the movie we see Pitt interacting with his family while making breakfast.  We hear on the radio and on the TV that things are happening in the world, but like all news with a 24 hour cycle it is background noise to the characters.  For us the audience we all know that something is coming, and that it will impact out characters shortly.

Why do I set this all up?  Well it's the bases of the whole movie.  How does our hero and his family survive this outbreak?  To not give anything away I will say that it does start immediately, and the director Marc Foster leaps into the story with both feet.  This is the movies strength.  We quickly identify with Pitt's character, and his family and we want to see him survive.  I do believe that Pitt himself brings his own persona into the movie as well.  Pitt is known for being a consummate actor, and a family man in his personal life.  It is these factors which makes us buy his character so quickly.   I wondered a bit if we were given someone else other then Pitt would we so quickly tie our emotions to the character.  This is not insignificant and something that should not be looked at lightly.  The book is about several characters.  The movie is about one character and his family.  In the first few minutes of the movie Pitt's character defends his family from on coming Zombies, and lawless people while still all maintaining his humanity.  It is no wonder we identify with him so much.  We want to be him, and we want him to succeed in getting out of plight.  While others run around and loot and destroy our hero maintains civility.  You see this when he shoots an attacker and when a police officer enters the scene he holds his rifle up in a non threatening way, but all the police officer see and wants is what's in the store.  This scene symbolizes the breakdown of civilization, but not the breakdown of our characters civility.

I would have enjoyed seeing and hearing the different types of survivors that the book concentrates on.  It would be a much different movie then, and one I would think that would be longer.   The movie is 116 minutes and the movie is well paced.  There are some really stunning set pieces that Pitt's character gets into, and some of the side characters that he interacts with seem to be worthy of their own film, but since this story is focused on Pitt's character we are only given his perspective.  It is because of this I really think the movie works.  Maybe a HBO limited cable series could be made about the other events that happen in the book?  There is certainly enough material to do so, and an audience for it, but I'm afraid that AMC's "The Walking Dead" has taken that territory successfully and there may not be that much more material that the public could stomach about a zombie outbreak or maybe I'm wrong and there is more of an apatite for zombie stories.  HBO take note and time to do some more focus groups on that.

Being a fan of George Romero I would be remiss here to mention him, and his films.  What makes them so unique is that there is a message in them, and in a Romero movie all characters are subject to dying certain deaths.  In most of Romero's films the characters that you may identify with become zombie food.  Not here in World War Z.    Forster does this to some of his side characters but not our hero Brad Pitt.  Pitt's character goes through some hair raising events and your on the edge of your seat as he does so, but in the end we know that our hero must prevail because his objective is to learn about the plague, and get back to his family.  So the story is as old as some Greek myths where the hero must slay the enemy and get back to his family.   There is nothing wrong with that, and like I Forster's pace and sense of tension he has throughout the film.  In fact I think that it is the films strength, and can only describe the film as tension ridden.

Also what this does unlike any other zombie film is keep the gore to a minimum, and hence the PG-13 rating.  I've heard people like the film who are not into such films, and that's a credit to the director again.  Unlike the zombies of yesteryear these zombies are quick, and multiply quickly.  A human who is bitten has 15 seconds before he or she changes, so hence this is a different zombie then what has been presented to us in the past.  Danny Boyle's "28 Days later" is a film that more reflects "World War Z" zombie.  But in Boyle's film he does not say zombie.  In Boyle's film the people are called the "infected", and the infection is transferred by not a bite, but by the blood.  Boyle's film is really well done, and what he does on a small budget Forster does on a big budget.  What can be done on a bigger budget you ask?  Well a whole host of things.  How about confronting zombies on an airplane?  or what happens when a wall of a city is breached by zombies?  The set pieces in "World War Z" are amazing to see, and you truly are amazed at how the filmmakers pull it off.  I enjoyed the film, and yes there is a ending to this plague, and it's kind of unique so I won't spoil it for the rest of you who will be seeing it.

The one thing that kind of got me was how the film tried to tie everything in a nice bow.  There is no doubt that the filmmakers had to show our hero re-uniting with his family, but how it does so seems forced.  I guess wanting the audience wanting more is a good thing, but sometimes it's a killer, and that can kill the pace of a film quickly, so I understand why the filmmakers ended the film the way they did.  I do believe that the audience seeing the film will enjoy it, and will come away from the film on a positive note.  After all for almost two hours the audience is subjected to nothing but tension.  The release of this tension happens when we see our hero is triumphant, but most zombie films end on a cautionary tale.  The book certainly ends more on a cautionary note then the movie and maybe that's what I missed.  Can I recommend this film?   I most certainly can.  It's a good entertaining popcorn film that you'll enjoy watching, and Brad Pitt carries this film all the way.  So enjoy and get ready for the zombie apocalypse.  Never has the apocalypse been so exciting and riveting.  You'll enjoy the ride.

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