Read another opinion on the film here.
A better vehicle for Brad Pitt as an actor than as a faithful adaptation of Max Brooks’ popular novel, World War Z does little to dissuade the fact that it’s a big scale action movie first and foremost, as we barely get a chance to meet Pitt’s Gerry Lane, a Philadelphia family man before his entire family is surrounded by writhing and snarling “zombies.”
These aren’t the ambling zombies from The Walking Dead that are easy to outrace, instead they are flailing beings, bending themselves into all sorts of contortions as they attack and infect others in the most visceral way possible. They work much better visually than slow-moving zombies, leading to absolutely enormous set pieces that are as oppressive as they are impressive showing a huge amount of scale, but with so much going on it’s hard to follow at times.
At its best, World War Z treads in territory much like Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion but when it covers territory that’s already been well covered in films like Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later it feels somewhat redundant. This is particularly true in the moments when Pitt is trying to survive the immediate danger with his family which is taken almost verbatim. Apparently, Gerry had a high profile job at the UN and they want him back in the field because he they think he may be the only one who can figure out a solution to the viral outbreak that has hit the globe.
The film’s erratic pacing is somewhat problematic, especially the scenes with Pitt and his family which are so weak they slow the pace down, even as convincing as Mireille Enos from The Killing may be waiting on the other end of a global cell phone for her absent husband to check in every night.
The film was rumored to have gone through some much-needed repair work and reshoots but this work definitely paid off because it helps not only to keep the audience firmly in Pitt’s court during the parts of the journey where he’s surviving things that seem hard to believe even for a big action hero. Genuinely well written by a series of high profile names, things eventually do slow down again and we learn more about the origins of the virus—presumably these parts are closer to Brooks’ initial intentions. Where things really get going is in the final act where Pitt is trying out one very drastic solution to the problem. This is the section of the movie when the zombies actually start to show off individual personalities that go a long way in bringing the film down to a far more intimate scale. That doesn’t mean things slow down and it offers the type of thrills and tension that the larger scale scenes just don’t.
In the end, World War Z isn’t the perfect representation of what Brooks was trying to do in his books, but Pitt and Forster do a good job creating an entertaining movie that plays with scale in ways that allows it to feel like a big movie at times but it also has enough intimate moments to keep sight of the fact that it’s a character piece.