Rated: PG-13 Reviewed by: Jim Release date: June 21, 2013 Released by: Paramount Pictures Corporation
A solid, if unspectacular addition to the zombie canon, as well as geopolitical and post-apocalyptic thriller is Marc Forster's adaptation of the Max Brooks (son of Mel and Anne Bancroft) first-person, subjective World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. One where the outbreak's initial location isn't China as specifically mentioned on the page.
Adequately transferred to fit the desired 3D technology is the trimmed World War Z groomed for a bona fide Hollywood star like Brad Pitt as former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane and as a summer blockbuster for more discerning viewers.
There's quite a pedigree for this adaptation of the undead to live up to, considering what George Romero and Danny Boyle as well as The Walking Dead has done with the genre. Here, chaos is brought upon by a vicious, ominous ailment that calls to mind Steven Soderbergh's intriguing, but too refined of a procedural, Contagion. In this depiction of a global pandemic, it helps to have a Gerry Lane to rally around without have an indulgent self-conscious quality or aura about itself.
The film navigates and globe-trots through many set-pieces with an efficiency even though it ebbs when the menacing bitten humans aren't groaning. One, early on, being Gerry and adoring wife Karin (Mirelle Enos of Gangster Squad) and two young daughters caught up in what turns out to be abnormally helter-skelter gridlock in downtown Philadelphia. A lethal virus spread from a single bite has begun to send a feral shock wave through the human population.
The distilled nature of Brooks' cunning ambitions with a more prominent political presence is jettisoned in favor of disparate ideological societies handling the ramifications of what prompts widespread rabid viral infection that may have something in common with avian flu or SARS.
So, the Lanes are rescued from Newark by Gerry's old boss Thierry (Fana Mokoena), relocated to a central command ship out of the Atlantic. Gerry's impelled by the U.N. to reenter his perilous profession not only to insure the safety of his family, but to find a relentless, horrifying epidemic's antecedent and bring it to a halt.
Some tense action sequences are staged with varying degree of aplomb by Forster, arguably up in this department after getting his feet wet in the 007 opus Quantum of Solace. There is a dispatch to South Korea where that government's subterfuge consists of teeth attraction against the onslaught of the living dead. An attack leads Gerry to Israel who seems to be holding its own with a massive wall as the siege of Jerusalem has a raw, visual power to it.
Along with Pitt, who is a charismatic leading figure (without being hoity-toity about his stature) but not really that well-shaded, and Enos's typical, caring wife and mother, there is Peter Capaldi as a W.H.O. officer, and especially Daniella Kertesz as the intrepid, wounded Segen who makes the most of her scenes. Especially in a taut scene aboard a plane which has some noticeable visceral impact. South Africa's Fana Mokoena is decent as Gerry's old U.N. superior who sends a chopper for his charge in the earlier rescue
World War Z manages to overcome its production and publicity woes even through its marginalized nature as the effects and landscaping to help augment the horror of plague is scaled back for a retooled Wales-based climax set in a secret medical facility. This research center may have what's needed to quell the outbreak as Segen and a scientist try to stay clear of the undead (think of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park).
In the end, a creditable aural and visual feast has a pat way of rounding out the lack of chilling or truly gory aesthetics as the beasties, known as zees or zekes to some, may be radically contextualized. Enough so to meet the demands of scribes like Damon Lindelof and J.Michael Straczynski to give a functional cinematic changeling more artistic big-budget design rather than insightful political underpinnings.
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