Thursday, August 29, 2013

World War Z (2013) - FilmReview

Article author: Alwyn Ash

"There will be no warning"... Taking a look at the blockbuster featuring Brad Pitt, zombies, and a ladder of Climbers.

Just when did the zombie culture become so successful as a film franchise? Perhaps in George A Romero's 1968 cult "Night of the Living Dead", or an earlier example with Hammer Horror's "The Plague of the Zombies" (1966)? Or just maybe Victor Halperin's 1932 independent offering "White Zombie" is the father of them all? And though it doesn't contain the romanticism of vampire lore, or the fascination of extra terrestrial beings regarding this earth with envious eyes, tales of the walking dead have kept theatre and television audiences entertained for over forty years. Even the gaming market has shared its own slice of terror with Capcom's survival series "Resident Evil". And comics have led to AMC's horror drama "The Walking Dead", developed by Frank Darabont ("The Shawshank Redemption", "The Green Mile")

If it is at all possible to forget Steve Miner's creatures in the 2008 reimagining of Romero's "Day of the Dead" (they can defy gravity - really?), there are two types of undead: "Generic Zombie", those that you can quite simply walk past (unless you are desperately out-numbered, as does happen from time to time); and "Fast Zombie", those whose speed brings an extra dimension to the fear factor, making it almost an impossibility to escape. The latter is where Marc Forster's feature film "World War Z" focuses...

Ironically, though based on the novel by horror author Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks), the film adaptation chooses to speed up its zombies intentionally, and there is much difference from the printed version. "World War Z" is, however, one of the most ambitious zombie thrillers of all time, focusing on a worldwide epidemic with the best use of news reporting, CGI and regular action sequences. The confusion and panic of zombies in Philadelphia, for instance, really impresses as Former UN worker Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and their two daughters, Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) and Constance (Sterling Jerins) attempt to escape the chaos. Though they eventually seek refuge on a U.S. Navy vessel, Gerry is forced to return to active duty and help locate the origins of the virus.

During the course of 116 minutes approx., we are taken from Philadelphia and the coast off the New York City coast to a military base in South Korea, the walled city of Jerusalem, and finally a research facility in Cardiff, Wales. It is during the Jerusalem scenes that memories of Romero's "Land of the Dead" (2005) are resurrected, the defences of a protected city breached and finally overrun by zombies. It is indeed a chilling moment as we quickly learn that, no matter the precautions taken, no where is exactly a safe harbour against the flood of walking dead intent on attacking the living.

What I do admire about this take on the genre is that, instead of just being flesh-eaters, these zombies attack to infect, quickly moving on to their next victim. There is much about "28 Weeks Later" present too, a 2007 post-apocalyptic horror directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo that chronicled the outbreak of the highly contagious Rage Virus. In both, the infected move rapidly, as they also did in Zack Snyder's 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead". But what "World War Z" manages to serve up in addition is the extreme case of a world at war with its own, those who were unfortunate enough to be attacked, now single-minded in intent. The twist, however, as we learn later in the film, is that not everyone is at the mercy of the zombies - and not because they possess any special skill or fighting ability... We are safely in scientific territory now, and it is Gerry who must somehow find an answer to eradicate or slow the tide of the growing threat that is engulfing the world's population.

Though the majority of the cast is unknown to me, I was pleasantly surprised to see Scottish-born Peter Capaldi in the role of a World Health Organization (WHO) doctor. Fans of the popular BBC television series "Doctor Who" will understand the irony of the role he plays in this horror feature. Another welcome appearance comes in the form of Israeli soldier "Segen" (played by Israeli actress Daniella Kertesz), who remains with Gerry after his flight from the overrun Jerusalem. During one scene she is bitten and, in an attempt to prevent her from turning, the UN employee amputates her hand.

The scenes in which an airliner is overwhelmed by zombies really does everything to amplify the feelings of tension and desperate claustrophobia as you realise there is no place to escape. This is brief but much better handled than in the 2007 film "Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane". As more of the passengers are attacked, becoming infected, we are left wondering just how Gerry and Segan will survive this nightmare...

Being a zombie genre fan, this is undoubtedly now one of my favourites, alongside George Romero's "Day of the Dead" (1985). It is also nice to see a zombie feature with such large-scale storytelling. Copying the success of "The Walking Dead" in cinematic form is not an easy feat, but director Forster manages it with unforgiving expertise, as his undead go on the rampage in every corner of planet Earth.

Purchase World War Z from the Starfoyer Enterprise Store:
DVD Blu-ray - Running time: 114 minutes