Zombies attack the human race and threaten to kill every person in sight; the humans flee at first, there’s a dash of drama, and after some deaths here and there, the humans ultimately overcome this seemingly bizarre menace. That’s the basic premise of almost every zombie movie ever made, and World War Z is no different. Don’t expect any groundbreaking progress in terms of plot. However, it’s the treatment of the various set-pieces that still manage to make the film worth a watch.
Fortunately, director Marc Forster wastes no time with unnecessary pleasantries and drives the film into action right from the beginning. The Lanes, a quintessential happy family of four, witness a sudden stampede of eerily strange creatures that turn a peaceful Philadelphian traffic jam into a chaotic civilian nightmare. From there on, our leading man Gerry Lane, (played by a gracefully ageing Brad Pitt), after ensuring the safety of his family, embarks on a global escapade to unravel the mystery of this pandemic and find a possible cure. He does this while simultaneously stumbling and struggling through unforeseen adventures.
What works in favour of World War Z are some genuine thrills and moments of panic which have the audience gripped enough despite the lack of any significant character development. It requires considerable suspension of belief to absorb the idea of a single man hopping across the world to rein in such an alarming virus. But Pitt manages to pull it off with a convincing performance that is testament to his commanding screen presence.
Despite the fast-paced action, though, if you feel something is missing you won’t be wrong. You are picking up on the movie’s lack of grief given the magnitude of what it is showing — a global catastrophe and the loss of thousands of human lives. It is safe to assume that the film-maker wanted to tap into our deepest fears of the worst kind of attack on human kind. Apocalyptic themes fascinate us, but then the director should be able to give them the weight they emotionally deserve.
If you are a Brad Pitt fan or like this genre in particular, this is the movie for you. Otherwise, you aren’t missing out on much. And this is not the last we will see of Gerry Lane anyway. In the penultimate shots of the film, Pitt’s voice-over emphatically claims, ‘This isn’t the end, not even close.’ We know that in Hollywood, that’s just code for one word: sequel.
The walking dead
28 Days Later (2002)
1 Long before filmmaker Danny Boyle shot to Oscar glory with Slumdog Millionaire, he ventured into the zombie genre with 28 Days Later. Ironically, the movie shares several similarities with World War Z. However, it lacks the stupendous budget of WWZ and does rest on some substandard production values, particularly noticeable if you see it in today’s CGI-friendly age. However, it serves a different brand of horror, a more intimate and morbid one.
War of the Worlds (2005)
2 After the success of their 2002 collaboration, Minority Report, Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg joined forces yet again for War of the Worlds. Set in a world where alien invasion threatens to wipe out mankind, the movie proved to be a darker and edgier take on aliens. Despite the grandeur and the dazzle of its special effects, the film makes a conscious effort to keep the story about a father’s affection. This arc helps maintain credibility and delivers some of the finest moments of the film.
3 The film is director Ridley Scott’s mysteriously frightening sci-fi flick about a quest for the creators of human life on a far-off planet. It is another feather in the cap of the talented filmmaker who has given us several unforgettable films such as The Gladiator. In the movie, Scott delivers a setting that is aesthetically a visual delight and offers a much-called for break from an overdose of CGI. All in all, Prometheus may not be a classic of any sorts, but it still manages to leave a solid mark in a genre.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, July 14th, 2013.
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