FILM: World War Z

Certificate: 15
Running Time: 116 mins
Director: Marc Forster
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mirelle Enos, Peter Capaldi
Genre: Horror, Action  
Country: USA
I have to get these people out of here before Ange adopts them all.
Having been a fan of Max Brooks’ novel World War Z and his “How to” for surviving the Zombie Apocalypse I wondered how any film-maker was going to even attempt to translate WWZ, a book with no-central protagonist which covers the globe over the entire course of mankind, into a Hollywood movie that wasn’t a complete and utter mess.  The short answer… they weren’t.

The similarities between World War Z the book and World War Z the movie end with the title… OK, end with zombies… but that’s it.  In fact, I’ve been hard pushed to recall a movie that had even less to do with its core text than this.  There’s no real way to review this “adaptation” as an adaptation and not slay it.  In order to attempt to explore this movie without it just becoming a one-thousand word shit-slinging match we’re going to pretend the film is called Brad Pitt vs. The Zombie Horde: Inspired by World War Z.
Black Friday at BM Bargains got out of hand real quickly.
The film doesn’t give you much of a first act.  In some ways it’s similar to Avengers, but for the most part it doesn’t really need a first act.  Life before the zombie uprising has been well covered.  There are only so many ways a film-maker can re-shoot the wheel (does that metaphor work?) before it all becomes a little tired and samesie, so it’s greatly appreciated that Forster throws us straight into gridlock traffic and the brain-eaters rampaging through the city at the tail-end of what we can assume is the filmic world’s equivalent to the Battle of Yonkers… if Brad Pitt vs. The Zombie Horde was a straight-up adaptation instead of a film loosely inspired by WWZ.  The biggest problem with this severing of the first act is we’re left with very, very little for Mirelle Enos (Karin) to do.  This is wrong.  This is the worst type of passive sexism you’ll see in Hollywood cinema.  Enos is a phenomenal actor.  In the U.S. version of The Killing she gives one of the most emotionally challenging, physically powerful yet psychologically delicate performances you are likely to see on television.  On its best day the recently cancelled Hannibal wishes it was Enos' performance.  She brought to the character a troubled humanity that the Danish original forget to inject into their protagonist.  You never fully find her lovable, yet at the same time you know she is a good person not in spite of but because of her faults.  In BPvTZH she is reduced to the 1950’s housewife, lingering by the phone with only the words “when will my husband Brad Pitt make it home?” to characterize her.  Boooooooooo!!  World War Z had something like two million main characters (it wasn’t two million but it was lots), are you telling me you couldn’t have picked one interesting character out of a hat and developed it for Mirelle? That she couldn’t have played the UN Delegate pal of Pitt’s instead?  I’m calling bullshit on this one.  When you’re dealing with this sub-genre of Horror movies your lead character doesn’t need a family at home for the audience to care.  It’s Bigger Picture Cinema you’re dealing in.  The entire world (which appears to be mostly white btw… even in Jerusalem) is at stake.  Trust your audience not to be retarded, baby-brained riddled mutts who can only care about people with 2.4 children, Hollywood!

Aside for that horrendous slight on Mirelle Enos, the performances are pretty decent.  I mean we only really get character development for Gerry (Pitt) as he goes on his whistle-stop World Tour to places that are, seemingly, containing the zombie threat reasonably only for him to fuck something up and cause the immediate and bloody death of many, many people but Pitt does well.  He’s believable.  Not very far from phoning it in but you invest in him.
The economy passengers took a turn for the worse when the airline
screened "The Hot Chick" as their in-flight movie.
Where Brad Pitt vs. The Zombie Horde earns its kudos is in set pieces.  Zombie movies are synonymous with running, tripping and the gradual "arrival and devour" but this movie gives them a real pack mentality that makes the hunt truly frightening.  The Jerusalem Wall siege set piece will leave you unblinking but the smacked-of-gub quality of it is lost as it played in just about everyone trailer aired for the movie.

You might be getting the impression that I didn’t like this movie.  If that’s the case then I’m sorry, that’s not what was intended.  As a fan of the book I entered into the viewing with an expectation of hating it.  Personally, the only way this book could be brought to the visual medium is as a mini-series, but I did really enjoy the film.  Is it straight-forward, Hollywood storytelling?  Yup.  Is the set-up run of the mill and visible from space?  Sure, thang but it’s executed very well.  There are some nice arguments about the individual versus the collective that are established and if you are so inclined will keep you chattering for hours afterwards.  There are also some truly exhilarating moments of visual beauty and it applies a nice piece of causal logic to our hungry friends.  An enjoyable movie though if it earns a sequel it’ll be called Brad Pitt vs. The Trading Standards Authority as it is no more an adaptation of World War Z than I am.


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