The first five minutes of World War Z shows us that Brad Pitt is a really good dad. He will kiss you on the head, make you pancakes, tell you he gave up his Very Important Job to spend time with you, steal a car, save you from zombies, and get you, your sister, and your mom out of the massively infected city.
Then he’ll make the government send a helicopter to save you, because he’s also a really good dad to the whole country; when the head of the UN calls him whining about how the President is dead and the zombies have taken over, Brad appears with open arms to save the day, because he is and always has been the one guy on whom everyone, even the Federal Government, can rely. You might even say he’s like a Super Dad.
But despite the rote hero trope World War Z leans heavily on, it manages to be a pretty solid zombie flick. Flying from military base to military base over the course of the movie, we see the world seemingly collapse, victim to an unknown “virus” that makes a person “turn” when bitten, in approximately twelve seconds. These zombies are vicious and fast, sort of à la 28 Days Later, but they are at the same time more classic and more animalistic. Their faces are gray and veiny, teeth brown and broken, eyes milky white, and they jerk and snap until they’re full on Undead. But when they start climbing over each other like monkeys to scale walls and bash their heads into car windows repeatedly until they break in, they become just enough of a tweak on the zombies we’ve seen thus far that they’re not boring.
The focus of World War Z can be summed up in two words: Brad Pitt*. It’s not directly about finding a cure. It’s not about saving his family, directly, not about the state of the world, directly, and it’s not even about face offs with the undead. It’s about the fact that Brad Pitt makes everything okay. World War Z is the plot focus equivalent of Olympus Has Fallen, only Gerard Butler is Brad Pitt, terrorists are zombies, and Washington D.C. is Planet Earth. In fact, looking back, there are a lot of scenes (one might say too many) in World War Z that consist of most of the people on screen sitting down or standing up literally watching Brad Pitt do things.
But, to his credit, Brad gives a rock solid performance as the dad of the century, and so does his hair. And if I were a passenger on a plane that was seat by seat being taken over by people-eating former people, I’d know that his sympathetic blue eyes and chiseled jaw could keep me safe way more than my own spectacled face and bad ankles could. In a sentence, Brad Pitt makes single-handedly saving the world seem pretty feasible.
The movie is based on a novel by Max Brooks, and the script was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, and Damon Lindelof, and in addition to a teensy cameo by Matthew Fox, a lot of the dialogue and ideas feel LOST-like in their vague immenseness. The talk is about vaccines and viruses and pandemics and zones and nothing is actually explained. Brad Pitt’s whole suicidal military-supported mission is to go out and find information. But then again, we all get zombies, so what else do you really need to say at this point?
World War Z relies entirely on suspense and there’s little to no gore, which would have bothered me (I like my blood and guts) if the suspense wasn’t there, but it is actually done quite well. There are certain instances in which the camera kind of cuts us off from seeing the gore in the arbitrary way that a previously rated R, toned down horror movie does, but overall, it’s not the focus, and that’s okay, Robin, not every movie needs to be disgusting (even if it would have been more fun that way).
The end is actually interesting. It’s not interesting in the way that it’s a montage with voice over, but the voice over itself is compelling. The end of World War Z is actually the beginning of World War Z. They don’t find a cure, but the world isn’t entirely overrun. The war is on. This allows the movie to end with a realistic sense of hope and the notion that the world, perhaps, is not entirely fucked. And, you know, that’s a pretty nice idea. Thanks, Brad.
*His character’s name is Gerry, but I just can’t even.