Wednesday, July 24, 2013

World War Z

Swarming Zombies in World War Z

This summer has been about big budget flops with Lone Ranger, White House Down and Pacific Rim leading the charge downhill!
Prior to release, much of the online chatter had World War Z heading the same way.
With a budget of over $200 million spiralling out of control and widely reported script changes and reshoots, World War Z was looking like it was fast turning into World War Zzzzzzzz.
Instead, director Marc Forster has given us a simple yet extremely effective and entertaining zombie action flick.
Brad Pitt plays a retired UN investigator, Gerry Lane, who has swapped the horrors of war crime investigation for the rigours of making pancakes for breakfast for his hard-working wife (an effective, if slightly 2-dimensional Mireille Enos) and their two daughters. As a global zombie pandemic erupts, our homely Mr Mom is called out of retirement to trace the original infection and help find the solution that will save what remains of the world population.
The plot is hardly original and the script is not going to win any awards but a couple of key decisions make this movie inescapably enjoyable.
Firstly, Marc Forster created zombies that, rather than slowly lurching and dragging themselves somewhat aimlessly after their prey (leaving you increasingly mad at each victim for not having moved a little bit quicker), are fast and furious and swarm at astonishing speeds. In essence you get the feeling very early on that if you are in plain view of them, you are a dead man walking...running...dead man..hmm. Well you get the idea. It's scary and that's what you wanted walking in right? It's non-stop action and intense.
The second thing director Marc Forster did to great effect was to change the balance of the movie. Most movies have an opening act, a middle act, and a final or third act. Each act is designed to build to the climax in the third act where the protagonist (generally the good guy) duels the antagonist (generally the bad guy) and wins the day (see The Avengers and Man of Steel as classic examples). That final scene is the scene where you get all the big action sequences and huge CGI productions. Its the fireworks at the end of the parade or after the big countdown. Except in World War Z there is no big countdown. Within two scenes of the movie opening, the fireworks have already been set off and they keep going until the final third of the movie. Then the brain work begins for the final third of the movie. And amazingly, it works! Part of what makes it work is Brad Pitt's understated acting ability. Really. He actually is a good actor and he shows it as he carries the final third of the movie to it's natural conclusion.
If you don't walk into this movie with preconceived ideas of what you want this movie to be you will walk out thoroughly entertained. And isn't that all you really want from a movie? If so, quit reading now and go see this movie while it is still in theatres.

If you are still reading, chances are you are a bit of a movie geek like me. Maybe action and escapism and a decent review are not enough for you. Maybe you like to see deep meaningful parallels between the movies you watch and the world we live in. You want relevancy. Who knows why. I mean isn't the entertainment business there to simply entertain and provide some escapism from our world? Well if you disagree, fear not. While the masses swarm in and out of movie theatres, dead to everything but the most basic of instincts there are some who believe in gleaning more from what we watch. And World War Z has a little bit of that too - just for us movie geeks - not so deep that it gets lost in its own importance but enough that it adds to your experience and just for a few seconds it adds to your perspective on life.

The truth is we all live in a world that is getting faster and faster and more and more congested, a society consuming all in its wake and a society that dares you stand still for even a second without fearing you may be left for dead. What World War Z does very well and not so subtly is suggest that maybe the best way to survive as a society is to stop, maybe even disassociate ourselves completely from the world, or at least slow down, quiet down a bit and turn off the technology if just for a few moments. From an opening scene where the TV news channel is never completely tuned out by the dad trying to play happily retired Mr Mom to the scene where a cell phone creates an all too familiar disturbance with devastating results, it's clear to us geeks that the enemy here is not so much the zombies but the speed and direction that society and technology and social media is taking us.
Not surprising then that the final third of the movie plays out away from the global scenes of chaos and CGI swarms and without the aid of technology, ending up on a beautifully remote landscape in Novia Scotia. It's a simple truth that gives you pause to think............but really this is just a cracking action movie and I want you all to blog, twitter, text and facebook this instantly to your friends and family before you move on to the million and one other things you have to get done today!

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