World War Z

World War Z


Reviewed by: Max Crawford

An ancient tale tells of six men in a darkened room asked to describe an elephant. Each reaches out and feels a different part of the elephant, variously describing it as a snake, a rope, a fan, a solid wall, and so on. Impressed by their perspicacity, Plan B Entertainment hired these men to edit World War Z.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Troubled Production World War Z was the full title. After six weeks of reshoots and several months of additional work, the film is a jumbled mess. Before I go any further I have a confession to make. When World War Z shot in Glasgow I spent ten days as a "supporting artiste". I was well fed and reasonably paid, but they didn't use the take where I ran smack into the back of Brad Pitt, denying me my moment of stardom. I may have a tiny axe to grind.

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Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a sort of modern day Miss Marple UN disaster magnet. He's tasked with discovering why the world is suddenly being swamped with angry, bitey corpses, and, if possible, finding a cure. No sooner does he enter an apartment building/walled city/aircraft/camper van/secure medical facility than it's overrun with zombies, so he's the perfect choice. Mireille Enos plays Marginalised Female Character #1, Gerry's wife and, along with their annoying kids, his only motivation for saving everyone in the entire world. "I'm scared", cries the youngest daughter in a scene where the family Lane tries desperately to escape a building riddled with ferocious cannibalistic monsters, letting the audience know that a young girl would be scared in that particular scenario. In an earlier scene where a bin lorry is smashing along a street jammed with cars, demolishing everything in its path, she heightens the dramatic tension by shouting out "I want my blanket!". This lassie should be in every film.

With the aid of a lot of CGI, Glasgow does a passable job of standing in for Philadelphia in the first ten minutes. Soon, though, Gerry's off around the world in search of a cure. In a desperate attempt to attach any sort of emotional weight to a lot of running around and shouting, we keep cutting back to his family looking sad. Sometimes he phones them and is sad at them. He'd really rather be huddling with them on a boat somewhere and letting the world go to hell, because the script called for a reluctant hero and that's what we're going to have. So Brad Pitt reluctantly heroes his way around South Korea (where nothing important happens), Israel (where the "phone home" gimmick is replaced by Marginalised Female Character #2) and Wales (where the belated realisation that having more than one actor in your film might be a good thing manifests in the form of Peter Capaldi). By the time the film gets a chance to breathe, it's too late: Brad Pitt's doing his best but there's no reason whatsoever to care about his family, the zombies, or anything at all that's happening. A tight, focused thriller with Pitt and Capaldi in an enclosed space and with a much lower budget would have been a thousand times more interesting.

Can we have a moratorium on zombies now, please? Bring them back in five or ten years as the slow, shambling metaphors for the inevitability of death that they're good at.

Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2013
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World War Z packshot
A UN employee travels the world trying to find a solution to a zombie pandemic.
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Read more World War Z reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray ****

Director: Marc Forster

Writer: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, based on the novel by Max Brooks

Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Peter Capaldi, Sterling Jenns, Abigail Hargrove, Fabrizio Zacharee Guido, John Gordon Sinclair, David Morse

Year: 2013

Runtime: 116 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US, Malta


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