World War Z (M)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner20/06/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 115 mins

Watchable zombie blockbuster with decent special effects, some effectively tense moments and a solid central performance from Brad Pitt, but it's let down by flagging direction, an emotionally blank script and a kiddie-friendly 12A certificate that results in a criminal lack of gore.

What's it all about?
Directed by Marc Forster and loosely (very loosely) based on the novel by Max Brooks, World War Z stars Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, a Philadelphia-based former UN military officer who's given up his job to help his wife Karen (Mireille Enos) raise their two young daughters (Abigail Hargrove and Sterling Jerins). However, when a zombie epidemic breaks out in the city, the Lanes are caught up in the ensuing panic and only escape by the skin of their teeth when they're airlifted to safety by Gerry's former boss (Fana Mokoena).

With his family safely aboard an aircraft carrier, Gerry is asked to accompany a mission to identify the source of the zombie outbreak and follows a complex trail to South Korea, Israel and finally Wales. Along the way, he receives help from an Israeli soldier (Daniella Kertesz) and a team of unnamed World Health Organisation scientists (Peter Capaldi, Oliver Bleibtreu, Ruth Negga and Pierfrancesco Favino).

The Good
Brad Pitt delivers a reliably solid performance as Gerry but his movie star presence rather unbalances the film, since you're never in any doubt as to whether or not the zombies will eat him. By the same token, none of the supporting cast members even get a look-in: Enos and the children are sidelined early on, while more familiar faces like David Morse and Matthew Fox (as an ex-CIA agent and a soldier) have clearly had their screentime reduced (The rewritten and reshot third act cynically attempts to redress this imbalance by casting a series of foreign actors who are big stars in their home countries).

On the plus side, Forster orchestrates some impressive set-pieces, particularly the opening zombie attack, with Glasgow doing a great job of standing in for Philadelphia. There are also some genuinely tense sequences scattered throughout the film and the script has some amusingly inventive ideas, such as North Korea deciding to solve the problem by pulling out everyone's teeth (no zombie bites, no epidemic – genius).

The Bad
The film's biggest problem, at least for genre fans, is that the expected gore has been completely neutered in pursuit of a 12A rating; there's at least one scene where something very nasty happens just out of shot and it feels like the filmmakers are actually putting their hands over your eyes.

In addition, the film fails to capitalise on its 3D effects (no zombies groping out at you), the pacing flags badly in the middle section and the script fails to connect on an emotional level because you only really get to know one character.

Worth seeing?
World War Z is watchable enough thanks to Pitt's performance but it's neither as scary nor as gripping as it should have been. World War Zzzzz.

Film Trailer

World War Z (M)
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Content updated: 20/01/2020 10:00

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