A United Nations employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop a pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself.
Zombies are in season again. Last week, The Last Of Us – an emotionally-gripping apocalyptic zombie survival Playstation 3 game – comfortably grossed more than the opening weekend box office takings for Man of Steel. This week, after years of (mainly negative) hype, Mark Forster brings the most expensive zombies we have ever seen on screen with World War Z.
The price of the zombie is, of course, irrelevant considering they have been created expertly for years on very meagre budgets. And no matter what the expenditure, they can only really die in one way: aim for the head. But it’s how you get there that counts.
In Shaun of the Dead, it was the most unpopular LPs in your record collection that acted as the missile. With Zombieland, the rules “Double-Tap” (2), “Bowling Ball”(15) and, probably, “Get a kick ass partner” (15) informed the methodology. In Romero’s Dawn of the Dead incarnations, the consensus is to attack the brain. And in World War Z, the approved routine is to strap some old magazines to your forearms, attach a kitchen knife to a broom-handle, move very quietly and then, you guessed it, aim for the (albeit more pricey) head. It really is the only way to kill a zombie, however expensive that zombie might be.
Brad Pitt – very much the ringmaster of this summer tent-pole behemoth – plays Gerry Lane a UN investigator trying to trace the zombie virus to its source in order to find the cure. He’s basically a rugged version of Hans Blix, with shoulder-length hair. Obviously he had a family to protect. His wife, Mireille Enos (Sarah Linden of The (American)Killing – minus the less well-woven American version of her Danish knitwear) never really has the chance to do anything beyond caring for the kids and standing the sidelines looking worried about Brad now and again, as the doting wife often has to do in order to motivate our standard-issue courageous male hero.
America has become infected by zombies, buildings are burning to the ground, the president is dead and it’s down to HansGerry to end his early retirement and find some sort of help for humankind, which he does by travelling the world (in this instance South Korea, Israel and Wales) and seeing what turns up.
The action scenes sped along accompanied by those ever-familiar long foghorn honks that seem to have appeared in ever action thriller since Inception and a thumping Muse-led soundtrack. The climax in a Welsh research facility may have been less-intense than the chase sequences that preceded it but there is something quite exciting about Peter Capaldi and Brad Pitt sharing the screen.
Despite the problems the film seemed to have in the production stage (the multiple rewrites and oft-mentioned $400 final budget) and the subsequent media hype salivating over the prospect of a summer blockbuster turkey, the result was actually a very watchable, visually impressive film. And the set-up of a potential sequel leaves the plot a little unfulfilling. Perhaps they should have spent less time focusing on aiming for the brain and more time looking for the heart. Or take some advice from a video game and do both.