Apparently we have Brad Pitt to thank for “World War Z”, a refreshingly well-done blockbuster. Seems that the initial cut was so bad that Brad insisted that the last fourty minutes be entirely re-written and reshot. In so doing, he not only saved the world from zombies, he also saved the movie.
For it’s the last fourty minutes that actually made the movie – helped lift it away from the formulaic climax of all these mindless blockbusters, all of whom are marching to the cacophonously loud beat of the same drummer: see how much you can destroy and how spectacular you can make the explosions. In these last fourty minutes we find Brad, a retired UN investigator, stealthily creeping through the well lit corridors of a WHO lab complex, in search of the critical serum. It’s quiet (the zombies are alerted by noises) and there’s a real spine-tingling, hushed suspense. Imagine, “suspense” in a blockbuster these days?
The first eighty minutes of WWZ aren’t bad either.
For one thing, it’s refreshing to have a flesh and blood human with an ordinary family at the center of the action. Unlike Tony Stark or the annoyingly undynamic duo, Will and Jaden Smith (his character in the After Earth dud is called Cypher Raige. Really?) or the man of lead, oops, steel or the soon to be released Wolverine, Brad’s character, Gerry Lane, is an ordinary dad who makes pancakes. He’s not actually all that ordinary, since he is of course, Brad Pitt. Nevertheless, the main point is that director Marc Forster (“Quantum of Solace”) has tried to invest Max Brooks’ weird zombie world novel with people we might actually want to identify with. And these days, when the quality bar is set so low, that’s a big deal.
The movie follows Gerry’s harrowing attempts to track down the source of an anti-dote to the fast spreading zombie plague. The zombies – now that Hollywood has allowed them to run like bats out of hell, instead of the sluggish Thriller version of them – attack in frenzied hordes and Forster has peppered his movie with some thrilling moments: there’s a zombie outbreak on a plane, where, there really isn’t much place to run; we see an enclosed Israel smugly celebrating its cleverness, when its un-breachable wall is breached and vast armies of the undead burst into screaming, scrambling panicked humanity. These scenes of mayhem and terror are balanced with smaller, quieter, more human moments as Gerry tries to keep in touch with his wife (Mireille Enos of “the Killing” and “Gangster Squad”) via a battery-challenged cell phone.
Buff, shaggy, hirsute Gerry is counterbalanced and assisted by an almost bald, diminutive Israeli soldier, Segen, Daniella Kertesz, of whom I’m sure we’ll be hearing more of in the future.
Again, in contrast to the thuggishness of Man of Steel, After Earth etc, it’s Gerry’s detective work and deductive skills (rather than sheer muscle and big weaponry) that leads him to finding the solution to the problem.
There’s one other important added value feature of this movie. It’s actually quite short (115 minutes v 130 minutes for Iron Man 3; 145 minutes for Man of Steel and 125 minutes for Oblivion).
Short and sweet and worth the money.
So now we ordinary, presumably living, movie-goes have to deal with three types of undying. There’s the undead – zombies, who we’ll be seeing more of in “The World’s End”, vampires, who we recently encountered in “Byzantium” (and of course “Twilight”) and there are immortals (Superman, Hancock, Wolverine and others).
This world is getting to be a very crowded place