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edge staff writer


The quick and the dead World War Z'

June 26, 2013
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Film offers waves of zombies, little else

As a critic, there are movies that you look forward to because you think they are going to be good and movies that you dread because you think they are going to be bad. There are always a couple of films in every season that have the stink of failure about them. Sometimes they are poorly conceived, other times they are decent projects torpedoed by bad personnel and/or financial decisions.

I've been very vocal about my misgivings regarding 'World War Z,' Brad Pitt's pet zombie action movie based on the 2005 Max Brooks novel. Everything I had heard cost overruns, multiple rewrites, a last-minute replacement ending indicated that this would be a misfire or even an outright flop.

After seeing the movie, I may have been mistaken. Don't get me wrong this isn't a very good movie. However, it isn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt, 'Killing Them Softly') is a former United Nations inspector elite, of course who has retired from his life of visiting war zones and hot spots to spend time with his family. Unfortunately, it turns out that his work is far from over.

There is a global pandemic happening, a fast-moving infection that turns those it touches into zombies in just a few seconds. Billions of people die in a matter of days. The zombie wave hits the Lanes' home city of Philadelphia without any sort of warning, leaving Gerry to find a way to get his family to safety.

So he calls Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena, 'Safe House'), U.N. undersecretary and Gerry's former boss. Thierry sends a helicopter to save Gerry and his family, picking them up from a rooftop in Newark. But of course, this more than just a friend helping a friend.

Before long, Gerry has been enlisted to help track down the source of the virus and he doesn't have a choice. It is made clear that only non-essential personnel may stay with the U.N. forces; if Gerry doesn't help, he and his family are getting sent back into danger. So he accepts the charge, albeit begrudgingly.

His job is to figure out who Patient Zero was and where he or she came from. That is humanity's only hope of discovering a cure for the zombie plague. The journey takes him all over the globe, from Asia to the Middle East to the British Isles, always searching for some way any way to combat the menace and make his way home to his family.

'World War Z' has lots of zombies. Lots. Just an absolute crap-ton of zombies. More zombies than you can shake a stick at. You might think you've seen a lot of zombies in a movie before; take that number and double it and you're starting to get into the neighborhood of how many zombies are in this film.

Unfortunately, the movie tends to cram its admittedly-impressive quantity of zombies into relatively short chunks of the film. What this leaves you with is a handful of zombie-packed sequences surrounded by a whole lot of Brad Pitt looking scared and leading his family/SEAL team/random people down spooky darkened corridors.

To be fair, Pitt tackles his role with gusto. He's the undisputed star of the film; he's probably one of half a dozen guys in Hollywood who can really put a $200 million movie on his shoulders and run with it. He's good, despite the fact that he spends half his time creeping quietly through dimly-lit hallways. Everyone else exists less as a three-dimensional person and more as a plot device; even Pitt's wife and kids are little more than motivational touchstones. 

The big action set pieces are generally a bit disappointing; the CGI is decidedly meh, making for moments that look less summer blockbuster and more video game cut scene. While the concepts behind some of those big moments are solid, the execution serves more to remind you that you are watching a movie.

'World War Z' has a handful of problems parts of it look cheesy, chunks of the plot don't make sense, it's kind of boring but the biggest is probably the tacked-on copout of an ending. No spoilers, but the last 10 minutes of the movie made me feel a little bit like I had wasted my time.

This movie proved me wrong it wasn't an utter trainwreck. It probably won't be the biggest bomb of the summer. Unfortunately, that's about the best thing it's got going for it.

1.5 out of 5

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