With its well-publicised reshoot of its ending and delayed release date by nearly a year, could the unfilmable World War Z be worthy of attention from audiences in a packed Summer schedule?
Director Marc Forster on paper seems an unusual choice for a sprawling story about the end of humanity. His Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland and Stranger Than Fiction are small, intimate stories of struggle and it is exactly this approach that he has brought to this tale of a global struggle for survival. Not too fear though, he's also brought his experience of set pieces from Quantum Of Solace along so that it's not just talking and walking amongst the plague of the undead.
Like the zombies depicted in the film, Forster and the 6 ( yes, 6! ) writers move straight away at an incredible pace - shuffling around aimlessly groaning is definitely off the menu here. Within the first 10 minutes an entire city is overrun with only snippets of information dropped in by news reports played out in the background on radio and TV. You meet Pitt's ex UN guy - Gerry - and his family all living happily in Philadelphia, then, before you can learn their names (which turns out to be pointless but more on that later) suddenly the streets are amok with carnage, but not awash with blood ( again, more on that later.)
With the entire world facing this zombie holocaust, Gerry is forced to help seek out an answer in a bold and refreshingly frank ultimatum - help and we'll guarantee your families safety. Don't and we won't. This plot device of finding "patient zero" allows us to see other parts of the overrun world and also allows Forster to deliver his set pieces. South Korea, Iraq and Wales all get their time on the screen and each has their own very distinct set piece to shred the nerves and start the goosebumps. Korea gets its own Call Of Duty-esque night time manoeuvres with Pitt trying to get from and to his military plane amid a plague of zombies. Iraq gets the big budget sequence which features heavily in the trailer where you get to see exactly what a herd of fast-moving zombies can do. This part pushes the tension to new levels but it never veers into the horror territory because you never really see any consequences of the zombie attacks. Throughout the entire World War Z, you never see any blood or carnage to help you realise the brutal seriousness of what is happening all around. If they hadn't of maybe gone for the lower certificate rating, this could have been a rare thing indeed - a summer blockbuster that added "horror" to its genre listing along with "action" and "spectacle."
Instead what we have is a great thriller that wants to truly scare and unsettle but never gets the chance to fully deliver on that. The sequence involving the lab in Wales is the infamous reshot part of the film and armed with that knowledge you could be forgiven for wondering exactly what it was that they had already filmed. That's because the ending here is a very much quieter and smaller set of events when compared to the first two thirds of the film. For this reviewer however it is the most nerve wrecking of all the land-based attacks with another game called to mind - a very Resident Evil" creep around" feel to it. One that is very different to the shoot 'em up chaotic action of the Call Of Duty part at the beginning.
Those astute of you may have noted the phrase "land-based" attacks just then. There is one other sequence that beautifully captures the terror of being caught between a rock and a hard place - now known as being caught between an airline door and a zombie. Pitt gets to show some acting chops in this part where he comes face-to-face with the epidemic and with no feasible way out that doesn't involve the death of himself and every other passenger aboard the unluckiest place since Samuel L. Jackson had some bother on his one some years ago. Pitt, as expected and as always, carries the film throughout with ease but that does mean that basically everyone else doesn't get a look in. To the extent that his own family that he's trying to indirectly save by helping find a weakness in the zombie affliction don't really register on the important radar. All that accompany Pitt on his whirlwind tour of "Zombie World" may as well be wearing the red uniforms from Star Trek as they have about the same life expectany of one of The Enterprise's security crew!
A great film that truly delivers on the tension and spectacle, it feels alittle bit short on the gore and the "World War" status - at times more like a World Skirmish In The School Playground type of thing. If the open ending and box office allows for the obvious sequel, here's hoping they go more 28 Days Later than 28 Weeks Later and really try and scare the crap out of the audience!
UK release date: 21.06.13