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World War Z

(2013)
A rarity; I read the book this movie was based on, an excellent effort by Max (son of Mel) Brooks. Its a thoroughly engrossing story; you almost cant put it down, its so well written. And it has nothing at all to do with the film, save that they share a title. WWZ is the story of Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a retired UN investigator who is called back into service when the zombie apocalypse hits. Gerry is skilled at infiltrating dangerous areas and extracting information, which is exactly why the UN needs him again; if they can learn where and how the zombie virus started, they can try to manufacture a vaccine. Gerry is first sent to South Korea, and then to Israel, and finally to a research facility in Cardiff, all in the hopes of trying to find why some mega-virus is turning people into killing machines. Weve seen a lot of zombie movies in the past few years, as well as Walking Dead steamrolling in the ratings, but this is probably the biggest-budget zombie movie well be likely to see. Its more of an action film than a horror movie, though thats fine by me. There are four major set pieces Gerry and familys escape from Philadelphia, South Korea, Israel, and Cardiff and each is interesting and creative enough to engage our attention. Some of this film is by the numbers Gerrys family missing him, people forced to make sacrifices in the face of dwindling resources and some of it weve just seen before; apocalypse, zombie or otherwise, movies are the rage lately, and this movie attempts to be as common sense about it as one can. But weve seen the panicked flight, the survivors packed into desperate quarters, the fall of civilization, etc. What WWZ brings to the mix is sleek pacing and taut suspense. As soon as we see the outbreak in Philly, we know whats happening, but the movie deals with a familiar subject in inventive ways (and I was pleased not to see the clichd shot of long stretches of abandoned cars on a highway, like every other apocalypse movie shows, stupidly). Though it aims more at adrenaline than fright, each sequence is so well done I could easily overlook the familiar elements. The South Korea segment was tense, and the entire part of the film in Israel is so strong it would be worth sitting through a much lesser film than this to view; thats the strongest part of the film, hitting home with unexpected force. The plane ride to Cardiff and Cardiff itself are clever, though coming after the amazing Israel section, they dont feel as strong. I think the problem that zombie purists (???) have with this film is that, the Cardiff section aside, its not really horror, but action. I have no issue with that, especially when its as well done as this movie is. World War Z is a zombie movie for the average moviegoer, not the zombie fanboy; its smartly done from start to finish, an excellent action film, and certainly worth your time to investigate. There are better zombie films out there (Warm Bodies, Juan of the Dead), but this is a very solid effort that goes down easy.

September 15, 2013