Sunday, 14 July 2013

World War Z: More Than Just a Zombie Flick

I was looking forward to World War Z (which I stubbornly insist on pronouncing "World War Zed"). I expected it to be entertaining, cheesy fun. In fact, it knocked me out.

Within a short time I was thinking it was the best zombie movie ever made. But I soon realised it was much, much more than that. It's a classic thriller and looks set to make other summer blockbusters fade into significance.

Part of its astonishing success is that it plays it straight, presenting a convincing picture of a world falling apart under a savage contagion. It's also a beautifully made film. In a way it's a pity it's a zombie movie, because a lot of people who would otherwise enjoy a brilliant thriller will avoid it. Of course, that's true of much science fiction. But zombies have a particularly sleazy pulp reputation — and they deserve it.

I won't linger on the Z-word. I'll just remark that this film follows the lead of 28 Days Later in making the zombies move fast (remember the days then they were lackadaisical shufflers, not Olympic class sprinting cadavers?) and actually goes one better by having the zombie infection also spread fast. The normal routine is that anyone bitten by these varmints has a lengthy fever and gradually transforms.

In World War Z it takes all of 12 seconds.

The movie is a powerful series of action set-pieces, impressively varied and effective. The sequence in Jerusalem has to be seen to believed. I found it astonishing — and gut-wrenching. And I was particularly struck by the ant-like behaviour of the zombie masses.

But it is the ending of the film which is really remarkable. 

Your average action movie just keeps cranking up the violence and mayhem and, usually, ends up painting itself into a corner with a disappointing finale, since it's pretty hard to top what's gone before. (I discussed this in my post on Skyfall, a movie which was a rare exception.)

Well, World War Z solves this problem through the audacious approach of eschewing a final big-bang action scene altogether, and instead opts for a prolonged sequence of suspense. It's admirably effective — and I found it almost unbearable.

What a great movie. The ingenious and beautifully contrived script had numerous writers involved. It was based on the bestselling novel by Max Brooks. The credited screenwriters are J. Michael Straczynski (The Changeling), Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom), Damon Lindelof (Prometheus) and Drew Goddard (the magnificent Cabin in the Woods).

There is much argument and debate about who did what with the script and how faithful it was, or should have been, to the novel. None of that matters. The movie is magnificent, and even if zombies are not your cup of grue, you should see it.

Full credit to director Marc Foster, who has made memorable films from Monster's Ball to the recent Bond Quantum of Solace. But this may well be his masterpiece.

And I also have to say something about the superb quality of the acting. Daniella Kertesz deserves special mention as Segen, a tremendously affecting female Israeli soldier. But in fact all of the roles are perfectly cast with memorable actors. Kate Dowd deserves an Oscar for the casting.

I've read some incredibly obtuse reviews of this remarkable film. Ignore them and buy a ticket. I doubt if there will be a better blockbuster this summer.

(Image credits: The poster of Bradd and his family fleeing is from SFX. The poster of him kneeling on a roof — altered later to being in the back of a plane — is from Wikipedia. The back of the plane version is from Hey Guys. The helicopter poster is from Sci-fi Now. The striking Saul Bass style grasping-hands graphic poster is by Matt Ferguson and is from Collider. The green finger-bomb poster is by Chris Garofalo and is also from Collider.  The shot of Daniella Kertesz as Segen is from the official movie site.)


  1. I am in total agreement with you on this - WWZ is a masterpiece and works so well outside of the traditional zombie "tropes".

    I think it comes very close to the solid delivery of one of its cousins, 28 Weeks Later as my thoughts below disclose:

    I think I need to head back and take stock of how the "zombie" or "infected" genre has evolved as there has been a logical (or sometimes, illogical) progression of this rather interesting cultural phenomenon with new entries from Romero and the rather fantastically grim take on the zombie narrative, "The Dead".

    1. I agree that 28 Weeks Later is a superior example of the genre — I liked it better than 28 Days... and I thought Imogen Poots was great in it. I asume The Dead is the Ford Brothers movie? I haven't seen it... yet. Thanks for reading!

  2. Cheers Andrew as it's great to keep up with someone who's work and influence really made my life a better place when I was growing up :)

    And yes, "The Dead" is from the Ford Brothers (cannot wait to see the sequel to this asap!).