At some point during the globe-traversing, exceedingly implausible plot of “World War Z” that finds UN employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) – the world’s luckiest guy – avoiding death at every turn and stumbling across a series of clues that lead him towards single-handedly saving the human race from annihilation by zombie apocalypse I had a shocking revelation – I’m actually enjoying this.
Before certain annihilation of the human race, we have to start at zombie movie square one: an average, quiet day in a big city. On one such average day, Gerry Lane and his wife (Mireille Enos) drive their two daughters to school in New York City and are stuck in traffic when the flesh-eating savages first arrive.
This very first action sequence establishes the flavor of thoughtful chaos that will follow in the rest of the film. The chaotic camerawork of cinematographer Ben Seresin (“Tranformers: Revenge of the Fallen”) borders on a found-footage depiction of the mass panic.
A certain respect for the audience’s attention is given, however, and this pays off well as the filmmakers work to craft action sequences that establish an understandable geography. You see where the characters are, where they need to be, and follow them as they move. It makes the whole thing feel much less gratuitous than it could have been.
After narrowly escaping the first of many attacks, Gerry and his family scavenge for food and resources at a nearby grocery store already being ransacked by survivors. Sprinkled into these scenes are little moments that tell stories on a micro level – Gerry witnesses a police officer ignoring the pillaging to salvage food for himself: Law has broken down.
As it turns out, due to unexplained previous events in Gerry’s life as an employee of the United Nations, he’s become extremely valuable in this crisis and quickly gets a call that he is to be evac-ed to the United States Atlantic fleet hundreds of miles off the coast in the middle of the ocean, the only safe place left after the global outbreak.
Surrounded by calm, zombie-free waters, Gerry can finally rest knowing his family is safe. It’s quickly made clear, however, that they are only liberated from certain death under the agreement that Gerry will leave immediately to help protect and transport a young doctor who is thought to be the nation’s best hope at understanding and fighting the viral infection that is sending the undead (and they are literally undead zombies, not “infected” humans that are still alive) into violent, cannibalistic frenzies. Setting out to save human kind on a trip that will take him around the world, Gerry is along for the ride as “World War Z” shape shifts into a number of films – equal parts post-apocalyptic, horror, espionage thriller, and action blockbuster.
This identity crisis of what sort of film “World War Z” is trying to be actually really works. The first act plays like a survival horror film in the same vein as “28 Days Later”, while the second and third act are completely different. It ends up packing all of the scenarios zombie-fans want from a movie into one thrill ride.
The pacing is utterly relentless as Gerry and a team of Navy SEALs encounter a number of tactical situations that require stealth and an understanding of how the zombies function. These set-ups are great at allowing the viewer observe the behavior of the zombies and put things together at the same pace as the protagonist.
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