Sunday, 23 June 2013



A $200-million zombie apocalypse epic with a major A-list star fighting the undead? Has Hollywood gone mad? Given that it was a hugely troubled production than went wildly over budget with reshoots, and that it'll most likely not make its money back, it'll probably never happen again, but full marks for spending that kind of cash on it anyway. Obviously it never comes within biting distance of Romero's Dawn Of The Dead, because nothing does, but as an Armageddon thriller detailing the near-extinction of humanity it's pretty good with several terrific suspense sequences and surprises mixed in with the dramatic contrivances.

You can argue the semantics all you like about whether they're actually zombies or just infected, as in 28 Days Later..., but the Z in World War Z doesn't stand for Zebra. If it moves, moans and bites like a zombie, then it's a zombie. Brad Pitt is the former UN investigator who, having barely managed to get out of Philadelphia (these scenes were actually shot in Glasgow!) has to travel round the world to find the source of a zombie pandemic which has already decimated most of the planet. The starting point originally looks to be South Korea, before the trail moves on to Israel and ultimately, er, Wales, in the desperate race to find some kind of weapon or protection against the billions of undead across the globe.

Certainly there are niggles: specially regarding how they get to Wales which is a massive stroke of narrative luck, as is who rather fortuitously survives a plane crash. The ending is a touch subdued, in the "this is not the end" fashion, and on a technical level chunks of the dialogue seemed to get lost in the sound mix. There's also very little in the way of spurting visceral gore, though there's still enough visual horror to warrant a 15 certificate (how nice that they didn't trim down for a weedy 12A). And you might feel the film's greatest horror appears in the opening credits, when a babbling media montage includes a brief but distressing shot of Piers Morgan. Still, the niggles are minor. The set pieces are excellently mounted: the building horror of the first attack in Philadelphia, with the running undead swarming through the streets like ants; the zombies clambering up the fortified walls of Jerusalem in a vast subhuman pyramid; the inflight eruption and a brilliantly tense trek through a medical centre filled with zombies.

Perhaps they could have slimmed the budget by not investing in a 3D conversion: it honestly doesn't need it, and much of the film is fairly dark to start with. The whole of the South Korea sequence might as well be radio by the time the dimly-lit night has been filtered through the 3D polariser and the dark glasses. Again, as with Man Of Steel, The Great Gatsby and Star Trek: Into Darkness, I opted for the 2D version which works perfectly well. It's good dark fun, it rattles along at great pace and doesn't drag over 112 minutes (Romero's Dawn, the Gold Standard of undead cinema, is well over two hours, but it's an exception), pacing those big and well-staged set pieces perfectly as well as the quieter scenes of Pitt and his family. Not one of the very top zombpocalypse films of all time, perhaps, but better than many and absolutely worth seeing.


No comments: