The Impossible. John Dies at the End. Texas Chainsaw 3-D. Gangster Squad. Promised Land. Broken City. The Last Stand. Phantom. Oblivion. Pain and Gain. Epic. Fast and Furious. After Earth.


World War Z is a riveting, smart, and effective movie. It’s not nearly as much a genre film as some would believe but that fact doesn’t lessen its effectiveness in the least. In fact, among the film’s many virtues is the fact it doesn’t adhere to really any of the horror trappings many films featuring zombies does. It’s as much a plague movie as it is a zombie movie and its target audience is pretty much everyone who doesn’t know the difference between Cesar Romero and George Romero. The result is a fast-paced, tightly crafted event film which features some truly fantastic moments. Imagine 28 Days Later done by Ridley Scott or Michael Mann and you’re close.

The world is already on its way to being doomed as the film starts. There’s a ‘rabies’ threat discussed in various news clips where it seems some areas of the world are beginning to exist in a state of martial law and the film’s opening credits sell a dangerous unpredictable place where something is afoot that defies logic. When we meet Brad Pitt’s Gerry Lane and his family the only thing that’s apparent is that they love each other a great deal and Gerry used to have a job with the government that was pretty important. The next thing we know they’re in traffic, the side mirror to their car is ruined, and then the world goes absolutely nuts. Vehicles are getting destroyed, people are getting massacred, feral human beings are swarming and attacking in mindless ways with no regard for their own safety. It’s bedlam and as shot and edited here [albeit in mostly useless 3-D] it’s scary and kinetic, and epic. Marc Forster’s directorial approach to the material is a bit unorthodox but in a way that allows the eye to see things they’ve seen before with a fresh perspective. The camera lingers, the perspective alternates from extreme POV at ground level to expansive and exhilarating panoramas from above that marry the personal and far-reaching terror of a world being faced with a massive loss of life.

As an audience we’re used to used to seeing creativity coming out of forced financial limitations so it’s a bit odd to see a film tell a story like this with a full toolbox. World War Z has more in common with the work of James Cameron, Michael Bay, and Roland Emmerich than it does with Edgar Wright, Lucio Fulci, and Dan O’Bannon and it’s never more obvious than in scenes of massive fleets of warships serving as America’s last fortress, catastrophic attacks in Israel, and attacks where thousands of living dead human beings swarm in attempt to kill. It’s not the most original film of the year but it’s surprisingly effective.

Gerry Lane is called back to action, blackmailed really, and he leads a small team to discover the cause and possible cure for the outbreak. His family is alive and safe, but in a world where space is at an all too costly premium their lives are only valuable as long as their patriarch is on the case. It’s a great dynamic, especially when people are sent to nearly assured death once they are deemed unessential to have a spot on America’s floating brigade.

Things go bad for the heroic adventurers almost immediately, but it allows a few great character actors to appear in the film. David Morse, James Badge Dale (one of my new favorite actors), Peter Capaldi, and even Matthew Fox show up to provide color and keep the story humming along. There are a few nice twists on the expected and World War Z does a great job of keeping the sense of dread and omnipresent danger at the forefront. And it’s paced so well that the film ends with the audience wanting more. In a good way.

Structurally the film is unorthodox. The scope hits a peak early in the third act and then the tone goes from large and bombastic to intimate and tension driven. It works like a charm and though many savvy viewers who know about the film’s reshoots and delays will have their own opinion the fact remains that the movie is tight and taut and effective in its final form. That’s all that really matters. It just plain works. It’s not often a big summer movie chooses to have its climax unfold in a textured and tone driven way. It’s the least expensive part of the movie and it’s fantastic.

Along the way there are a few really interesting filmmaking decisions by Marc Foster. The man has a great eye and some different approaches to familiar subject matter. Brad Pitt is is usual fantastic self but the bottom line is that World War Z is a winner. And it’s nothing like Max Brooks’ book from which it’s based. Which is a good thing.

Is Brad Pitt built for movies like this?

Yes and no. Because he hasn’t done many movies like this is feel really fresh but on the other hand why isn’t he in more? The man is flat out at the top of the game.

Where does this rank with other zombie movies?

Beverly Hills Cop and Prince of the City are both police movies but that’s where the comparison ends. World War Z is a zombie film for people who’d never go see a zombie film.

I want gore! Will I get it?

Not in the least but there’s only one part in the whole movie where I felt the absence of gore and viscera hurt the emotional impact of the scene.

Marc Forster did the worse Daniel Craig 007 movie. Why should I be optimistic about his work here?

Because he rocks it.

Matthew Fox is in this?

Yeah, but they never show him full on. A weird choice. Was it because some of the Lost folks worked on this or because he was still embarrassed about Alex Cross and didn’t want to look us in the eye.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars

Nick On… Is my new ongoing movie review column. The goal is to distill things a little and make it a little more playful and easier to digest rather than the long form. Hope you like. Please let me know what you think as there will be many of these coming and the goal always is to improve. Please share and whatnot.

– Nick (Twitter, Facebook)

The ImpossibleJohn Dies at the EndTexas Chainsaw 3-DGangster SquadPromised LandBroken CityThe Last StandPhantomOblivionPain and GainEpicFast and FuriousAfter Earth.

World War Z (2013)

A U.N. employee is racing against time and fate, as he travels the world trying to stop the outbreak of a deadly Zombie pandemic.

06.21.2013 (USA)
  • Marc Forster
  • Max Brooks
  • Damon Lindelof
  • and 1 more credit
  • Brad Pitt
  • Eric West
  • Matthew Fox
  • Mireille Enos
  • David Morse
  • Action
  • Drama
  • Horror
  • Sci-Fi
  • Thriller
Watch or buy now

World War Z on IMDb