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Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - World War Z

Directed by: Marc Forster

Produced by: Brad Pitt
Debe Gardner
Jeremy Kleiner
Ian Bryce

Screenplay by: Matthew Michael Carnahan
Damon Lindelof
Drew Goddard

Story by: Matthew Michael Carnahan
J. Michael Straczynski

Based on: World War Z by Max Brooks

Starring: Brad Pitt
Mireille Enos
Fana Mokoena
Daniella Kertesz
James Badge Dale
David Morse
Ludi Boeken
Matthew Fox

Music by: Marco Beltrami

Cinematography by: Ben Seresin

Editing by: Roger Barton
Matt Cheese

Studio(s): Skydance Productions
Hemisphere Media Capital
GK Films
Plan B Entertainment

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Release date: June 21, 2013 (United States and United Kingdom)

Running time: 116 minutes

Country(s): United States
United Kingdom

Language: English

Production budget: $190 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $460, 162, 000

Well, I told you it was only going to be two days. This'll be my last review for another week before I head off to Tullymore for a week, and I could be heading straight into twelve-hour shifts at the World Police & Fire Games, so needless to say I'll be busy, but will try and keep up with the reviews. I've got one for Monsters University on the horizon, and I've just acquired a copy of the 2012 remake of Maniac, starring Elijah Wood, so, for all the latest (and greatest, if I may be so bold) in movies, keep your eyes posted!

Today's movie under my two blue moons is World War Z, an adaptation of the 2006 Max Brooks novel of the same name. To get the elephant out of the room here, I'm a big zombie-fiction freak. At present (through a good friend), I'm working my way through and greatly enjoying Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead comics, and I raised myself on a diet of the classic George A. Romero films, but also things like Re-Animator, 28 Days Later (though they aren't technically zombies!), Shaun Of The Dead and even up to Zombieland from a few years back (incidentally, though I myself often overlook it, give John Ajvide Lindqvist's Handling The Undead a look in if you want a good zombie novel). Originally slated for a December 2012 release, but numerous production troubles, including the Hungarian Counter Terrorism Centre raiding the warehouse where eighty-five guns to be used as props were stored and confiscated, as import documentation was misleading, claiming they were disabled but were in fact fully functional, leading to criminal charges (later dropped), and also a complete re-write of the third act that saw the production budget balloon from $125 million to $190 million, have ensured that the film has went through an uphill battle to hit our screens. Well, Paramount decided to take the gamble on releasing it during a crammed Summer release season, and here it is: basic plot goes that Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt, also executive producer), a family man who has retired from his position as a United Nations investigator, is brought back into the fold, and has to travel the world in order to find the source and the way to combat a pandemic which could bring about a potential zombie apocalypse. Got that? Good.

To start with what's going right here, I must applaud the producers for having enough faith to invest a lot of time and effort into the project. This is a big, globe-trotting film, and it is key that we are able to appreciate and feel the planet-encompassing nature of the zombie epidemic. In terms of the plotting of key set-pieces, World War Z creates some thrilling moments. The scene on the plane, the whole Israel sequence and (in particular) the South Korean Camp Humphreys parts (the central hooker revolving around whether or not Gerry's phone is on silent) are ingenious and examples of genuinely intense set-pieces. Also, as the film's anchor, Brad Pitt gives a solid performance in what is, for all his specialisation, an everyman part, and Pitt delivers what is necessary of the role. It is through him that we feel the mass and burden that the character carries on his shoulders. Furthermore, it is an interesting yet effective gamble in casting largely unknown actors, as opposed to the usual A-list cast, and it pays off. It gives the film a truly international flavour that is appropriate for the size of the picture. Another part of the movie that works well is the sharp score by Marco Beltrami. It's no secret that Beltrami is a fine composer (The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada really turned me on to his work), but here his artistic flourishes do their earnest to make our experience of watching World War Z the emotional equivalent of walking a tightrope. Although he does a good job of making music that sounds big whenever it is required, it is in the film's quieter moments that the subtlety and aural intricacy with which Beltrami has designed his compositions, engaging us beyond the cerebral consciousness and into the subconscious levels, that Beltrami is at his best. Finally, although director Marc Forster has a proven track record in dramas, his previous work in a big-budget action film such as Quantum Of Solace, proved to be turgid and uninspiring affairs. Here Forster proves himself to be a director versatility, equally at home at the helm of a big-budget movie as he is behind the low-budget independent features where he made his name. It's an economical and efficient movie, and it is Forster who gives it that quality.

Now, much as I liked World War Z (and I have to say I did), there are a number of issues that deny it from being a great movie. For starters, although the script has some brilliantly orchestrated set-pieces, there is at heart a structural flimsiness to it. It often comes across as merely episodic, jumping from one zombie scenario to the next, with any semblance of plot or basil exposition being purely perfunctory and without much effort being invested in establishing a true emotional core. This is especially disappointing considering the credentials of Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard, but I think the key player at fault is Matthew Michael Carnahan, as the former two were only brought in to redraft the third act. Furthermore, the overall tone of the movie is as such that, although we have lots of wanton destruction, World War Z lacks the fundamental crunch(es) of the genre. I know this is a personal thing, but when I see a zombie movie, I want my blood and gore and grot and nasty bits and arms and legs and decapitations and ingestion of intestines! What we get is a PG-13, pacified film that is lacking in that extra oomph we expect with the genre. Although it's status as a zombie movie can be contested, I think that 28 Days Later did everything this does and more... with a budget approximately thirty-eight times smaller. 

However, despite these problems involving a largely episodic script that lacks a true emotional core and a PG-13, turned down a notch zombie-infestation, even with it's relative perfunctory and conventional nature, World War Z is still a pretty good actioner. We've got a strong anchor in Brad Pitt, and the producers were genuinely gutsy in delivering a near-$200 million zombie movie. Marco Beltrami's score keeps the film on a tightrope, and Forster's efficient direction stop the audience from getting bored too quickly. Finally, the film does contain some genuinely intense and scary set-pieces that, although negatively undercutting the manifest construction of the film, will be remembered as stand-out moments in contemporary blockbuster cinema.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.9/10 (How appropriate this movie get a number that eats itself!)

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Looking forward to relax (may just watch The Terminator tonight. Haven't watched it once this year, and seven months is way too long for the greatest film of all time...)

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