I had to interview my zombie-fan sister extensively before forming a more “informed” opinion of this movie. Thirty minutes in, however, in between clawing my face out in fear, I knew that it was in fact, a uniquely good zombie movie.
World War Z is an adaptation of the book of the same name, its film rights bought out by Brad Pitt‘s Plan B Entertainment production company (much to the vocal dismay of the book fans, but by now I’m pretty sure they have shut up). Pitt himself stars in the film as ex-UN investigator turned loving house husband Gerry Lane. The zombie apocalypse movie starts with how movies of this genre often do – a normal day. Gerry’s picture perfect wife and 2 girls were out and about on a family outing soon inconvenienced by heavy traffic down the streets of Philadelphia. Soon, an explosion pushes Gerry to viciously drive onward as blind panic ensues around them. Inevitably forced out to the streets, Gerry then witnesses the cause of the pandemonium – a frenzied man bites another man. The bitten falls, squirms, contorts, screaming the entire time, and in less than 13 seconds transforms into a likeness of his attacker. Zombies attack.
Gerry gets a call from friend and former colleague Deputy Secretary-General Thierry Umutoni who promises him and his family a safe haven, for a price of course. Gerry is to return to his post and lead a team of a scientist and his guard bent on finding a cure for this unappetizing mutation before all of humanity is lost. From here the movie proceeds how movies of this genre often do – using mind-numbing suspense and chaos in between scenes of explanatory dialogue to keep the plot grounded. But one welcome difference is the treatment of the plot. Zombies in Gerry’s crumbling world do not relish the taste of human flesh, usually shown in scenes of them leisurely gnawing on the limbs of their victim. In WWZ, the zombies’ sole purpose of being simply seems to be contagion. They only want someone to share their pain by sharing their illness. This underscores the “cure” that Gerry figured out in the course of his misadventures that took him to South Korea, Jerusalem, and finally, to the World Health Organization headquarters in Nova Scotia.
The thrill of the movie (as expected) is in the thrill of the chase. A colleague of mine warned me that watching the film is running for your life. That was an apt description as the zombies here are fast! Then there is that thin sliver of hope for a cure that grounded the plot, and thus the movie itself. Unlike the Walking Dead TV series and the Resident Evil franchise set on a lost, zombie-infested world, WWZ starts at the beginning, showing a very realistic view of how a contagion would start, and the human errors and political lapses that contribute to its spreading. A litany of the heavy losses incurred by the US and the polar ways North Korea and Jerusalem guarded themselves against the epidemic comprise a political commentary of sorts, lauded in the book and translated into the film. Brad Pitt was also a success as the film’s lead, once again reminding viewers that he is not just an aged Robert Pattinson. Pitt carries the role with the dignity, calm, and leveled head a man of his skills would have. Even the performance of his supporting ladies Mirielle Enos as his wife Karin, and Daniella Kertesz as Israeli soldier Segen were remarkable.
At the end of the longest 2 hours of my life I held my pounding chest, breathed in and out and relaxed. The image of zombies piled on top of each other as they scaled a great wall haunted my mind. But I was smiling, happy in the knowledge that zombies are not really out there. At least not yet.
Photo credits to owners.