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Animadversion: War with the undead

July 07, 2013

World War Z is another zombie film — and another blockbuster — with a big star. It doesn’t hurt at all when that star is Brad Pitt, fighting zombies with basic clear thinking, survival skills and the devil’s luck. For those of us who don’t have the essentialities of fending off the undead, well ... we know what happens next.

An ex-UN investigator Gerry Lane (Pitt) lives a content, smile-filled life with his wife (Mireille Enos) and two daughters (Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins). On the way to school in the middle of a traffic jam, the epidemic hits them: a small number of people leap onto others and start devouring them. After 10 seconds (and some jagged camera movement) they too change into flesh-eating, mindless creatures and so hordes of zombies are ready to feed on a mass of very nervous people.

Only, the frenzy-induced zombies aren’t the slow-moving ones which are a popular genre. They are fast with keen hearing! They will run to you if you crack a sound, and they won’t die easily either.

Forced back on duty by his former employer Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena), the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Lane gets his family onto a safe aircraft carrier, but to keep them there he has to pull their weight. So Gerry goes on a globetrotting mission — Korea, Jerusalem and Wales — to find the strain of the virus and a lead to finding a cure.

World War Z is an emotionless action adventure which is almost gore-less with big set pieces. The film is filled with the most unprepared bunch of people who scuttle about without any contingency plan; their lack of thinking makes Pitt the only sane guy on the planet, connecting dots which audiences may join even before he does.

The result is a zombie film which is marginally entertaining with Pitt holding it together for a better-planed climax in a regressed Andromeda Strain-like research facility.

Directed by Marc Forster (Stranger than Fiction, Quantum of Solace) and written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, J. Michael Straczynski, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof, World War Z is rated PG-13. It is an emotionally vacant zombie film without any personal oomph.