World War Z

World War Z is at times terrifying, chilling, and very very tense. Through it all, Brad Pitt turns in a surprisingly effective performance as a dad who would do anything to protect his family.

However far the movie strays from the book, it sets up excellent conflict and delivers one of the best movie experiences so far in 2013.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released June 21, 2013

Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, J. Michael Straczynski, and Damon Lindelof. Inspired by the novel by Max Brooks.

Directed by Marc Forster

Starring Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, Sterling Jerins, Abigail Hargrove, Brad Pitt, David Morse, Matthew Fox, James Badge Dale, and Fana Mokoena 

Rated: PG-13

*     *     *     *     *

Story

Gerry Lane (Pitt) and his wife, Karin, (Enos) and two daughters (Jerins and Hargrove) seem to be living a fairly typical big-city life. We have a feeling that Gerry used to have an important job, but he seems devoted to his family as we see their morning routine unfold. During that routine, we see news stories about some kind of illness spreading across some third-world nations.

Then everything hits the fan during the family’s commute. Eye-popping and tense set-pieces show all kinds of horrible stuff, including the speedy transformation of a bitten human into one of these zombies.

The Lane family gets away from the initial devastation and Gerry is soon in touch with Thierry (Mokoena), who appears to work for the UN in some capacity. Thierry promises an airlift to get Gerry and his family out, and it appears Thierry needs Gerry’s help, too.

But for now, the Lanes have to survive the night. After a bit of rest followed by a harrowing, truly heart-pounding chase up a tenement building, the Lanes are picked up and taken to a ship out in the middle of the ocean.

Now Gerry learns that his family will only be able to stay on the ship if he agrees to investigate the source of the outbreak and try to figure out how to save humanity, which is rapidly dwindling. His investigation takes him all over the world, including Jerusalem, where he connects with Segen (Kertesz), a soldier assigned to help Gerry get from place to place in the city.

Gerry finds some important clues and finally is led to a clinic where he might be able to find a solution that will save humanity. While at the same time, Karen has to fight to keep her daughters safe and her hope for Gerry’s survival alive.

Critique

World War Z works as well as it does because it effectively depicts a worldwide cataclysm while at the same time spending time with individuals and families who have to cope with the outbreak and try to keep their families safe. So we believe that the stakes are high, but we also feel the incredibly high stakes intimately with the Lanes and others who are involved.

This is a well-crafted flick, with all kinds of tension and conflict and surprises. Things don’t go well for Gerry and the villain– the outbreak and the zombies– is relentless, terrifying, and smartly executed. The pacing is done quite well, as the audience gets swept up in the insane action of each smaller arc, and then the audience is allowed to stop and take a few breaths in order to be ready for the next action set-piece.

Also, the characters are interesting and they interact and behave intelligently. These people are in a constant state of terror, and this is very well done.

The filmmakers made a very good choice to ensure that the audience gets to see the zombies up close a few times in order to have a better idea of what Gerry is up against. And the resolution is suitably difficult and satisfying.

Now, as for Brad Pitt, he never eats on camera in World War Z, which is a relief. It helps that he has plenty to do here rather than mug, so his acting is not as distracting as usual. He’s still one of today’s deeply overrated actors, but he carries the film fine, with lots of help from Enos and Kertesz.

World War Z is very intense and fast-paced. There are plenty of jump scenes and scary moments. This isn’t a movie for kids but adults will generally have a very good time at it.

Content warnings: some salty language, lots of very scary and violent images, lots of intense scenes.

Writing: 4.5          Acting: 4.5           Overall: 4.5

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About jared

Jared Garrett works as a writer, the manager of a program development department in the corporate world, and an instructional designer. He is a family man with an adorable, fun, and way-too-smart wife, six silly kids, a new house with an overgrown back yard, seven fish, and a bunch of chickens. He has written fiction, user manuals, SEO copy, radio scripts and textbooks and has won first place in the Mayhew writing contest at BYU and received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. He lives at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains and is currently seeking representation for his myriad completed novels.
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