Okay, I have totally got a thing for post-apocalyptic stories; there's something about destroying the world as we know it and imagining how survivors will pull civilisation up by its bootstraps and begin again. Granted, post-Z stories are still pretty hot property right now, and most of my friends have been watching The Walking Dead. I've watched a bit of season #1 but to be honest, I got a bit meh halfway through. But that's just me, and I'm an odd one when it comes to TV etc. A series either grabs me by the short and curlies or I let it go just there.
A few years ago I picked up a copy of World War Z by Max Brooks. "Read that book, my friend told me. You won't regret it." So I did, and probably finished reading the entire thing within days. Wow. What a ride. Basically, the book is a fictitious collection of first-person accounts looking back at the zombie outbreak that almost wiped out the human species. This totally took the typical zombie outbreak story to another level examining the broader implications but also at human behaviour, and what makes a hero. (Sometimes the most unlikely people, according to Brooks). I'm not going to go all mushy with "triumph of the human spirt blah blah blah" but yeah... That.
So... [deep breath] Onto the film. First thing I'm going to say, the film is NOT the book. If you read the book, forget you ever read it. If you're looking for the book, you'll see a few small touches but that's it. The film is inspired by the book. In the loosest sense. Oh yes. There is Brad Pitt. And plenty of feel-good humanitarian social commentary shoe-horned in. But I don't mind either Brad or his soapbox. Because, yeah, this was a tight film.
Essentially, our protagonist, Gerry Lane, is a UN investigator who's retired, but his boss calls him into active duty when the zombie plague blooms into its full savage glory. And these zombies *are* savage. There's no slow slide into zombiefication. You get bitten and about a quarter of a minute later you've turned into a teeth-chattering, biting frenzy machine. And if you want to hold onto your grey matter, you had better RUN.
Okay, so I don't do zombie films. Yes, though I write horror, I struggle with zombie films. George A Romero does me in. Though I loved Planet Terror and Shaun of the Dead, I just couldn't sit still. Anyone suffering through a zombie movie will me will probably derive more entertainment thanks to my squirming and freaking out than the actual film.
I was in top form watching World War Z. Really. I was pretty much tap-dancing my anxiety. Yes, it's only a movie, but still... There's probably a lot wrong with the film when it comes to the screenplay. Perhaps the cyclic predictability: Gerry goes somewhere, someone does something wrong and BAM! THE ZOMBIES ARE COMING ERMAHGERD WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIEEEEEE!
Brad must've gotten super fit by the time he finished shooting this one. Gerry Lane spends A LOT of time running (or his extras did). Then again, I don't blame him. These are some of the nastiest zombies I've seen in cinema for a long time.
Stuff that's unlikely—like strapping magazines to your forearms to stop the damn things from biting you... I'm not sure that's fool proof but jawellnofine. To give Gerry some credit, he didn't stick around long enough to test that theory to the full.
Mostly, the horrifying fascination with watching a pandemic outbreak of zombiefication goes all the way through this story, accompanied by the claustrophobic realisation that the characters have no safe haven, nowhere they can hole up that is ultimately protected. The zombies will get there in the end.
There were times where I felt the writers laid on the "I'm doing this to save my family bit" a little too heavily but this was mitigated by the relentless pace... You just don't get time to draw breath and worry too much about the fact that the sad wife is left at home with the brood of kidlets.
My final verdict: Yes, watch this if you're looking for something that's jam-packed full of loud explosions and people who're running for their lives in a kind of macabre treasure hunt. The clock is ticking, and time is running out. That is all. World War Z is a breathless race and if you don't think too hard about the stuff that's implausible, you're in for totally satisfying entertainment. Oh, yes, and there is Brad Pitt. He might be a little older but eish, my bru, I still dig him.