Review: World War Z - Going Viral

There's a lot of pressure for the most expensive zombie movie ever made. The only other blockbuster undead movie that I can recall was Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead back in 2004. So, is this a horror movie or an action movie? It's a very interesting question, and one of the ones that was asked by many people in the lead-up to the film's release. You can go two ways with a zombie outbreak movie, the very terrifying 28 Days Later style, or the action-thriller type we see in I Am Legend or the Resident Evil movies. World War Z kinda falls in the middle.

That said, it's more towards the action type. Stabbing and shooting hordes of zombies, crashing planes and helicopters firing miniguns at mountains of the undead, being crushed by masses of the poor fellows. And when there is action, it's good action. I found myself with a huge grin on my face as the zombies got their asses handed to them by Brad and his friends, or the other way round, which happened a fair bit. That said, there's some actual horror in this, with the first act being an absolutely fantastic outbreak of the disease. The first act sees our protagonist, Gerry Lane (Mr. Pitt himself) interacting with his family in some very well-acted scenes with great dialogue.
Then, in the busy streets of Glasgow - UHH I mean Philadelphia, they are thrust into the outbreak of the rabies-like infection that involves people running for their lives, crashing cars into various obstacles and zombies smacking their heads into things. The fact that the child actors in this movie are so good only reinforces the audience's fear, as we go along with the conviction of the kid's terror while the adults try to contain theirs. The movie progresses to an apartment building, where we really get scared, trying to get to the roof and to safety followed by angry zombies with jump-scare a-plenty. It's quite unsettling and very well done. Great start.

After that, it gets more thriller. After having to choose between his family and the greater good with the help of blackmail, our friend Gerry heads off with a scientist to South Korea to find out the source of 'the Infection'. By the way, those terms, 'the Infection' and 'the Infected which is starting to sound really generic and it annoys me. Anyway, that doesn't matter. What matters is, there's some twists and turns which are quite interesting. Oh I should probably say, I haven't read the book, so I'm not going to do any comparing, although I assume the film has taken all the tangled points of view and made a narrative out of it. ANYWAY.
There's some great action and thrills in the second act, set in the dark and threatening setting of South Korea, followed by the bright and harsh environment of walled-off Jerusalem, where as per, all hell breaks loose. We learn some interesting stuff along the way, and it's interesting to see how different countries react to the crisis, America just collapses, Isreal is the safest whilst North Korea rips everyone's teeth out. Pretty effective.
The cast, has to be said, is great. Brad's Gerry Lane is great to watch, determined yet flawed and dedicated to his family. The supporting cast, Fana Mokena as Gerry's friend at the UN, Mireille Enos as Gerry's wife, Daniella Kertesz as a soldier who Gerry helps out in Isreal, even Scottish born and bred Peter Capaldi shows up. It's all lovely.
So where are the problems? You can find most of them in the third act. In the form of a get from A to B horror trope, Brad and chums turn the film into a very differently toned piece, which is quite distracting and flawed. Sure there are some great moments but overall it feels a bit rushed and disjointed. It just leaves everyone with a weird taste in their mouths, even if we do get some classic zombie movie scenes. That said, the other acts weren't completely devoid of plot holes or errors, I just didn't notice them because I was swept by the narrative and punchy action and thrills. The third act really sinks this film down.
There are also some notable...oddities in the film which I want to get into, but alas, spoiler waters ahead there be. These are kinda actual plot points in some cases, although pretty much all of the scenarios they are set in have been seen in the trailer. BUT ANYWAY.


Quite a few times in the script action or plot points are spurred on by one sole person screwing up completely. This happens four times in the film. Maybe it's a message about how if there's one weak link the entire chain collapses or something, it was more funny than that to be honest. Here, this is what I got:
  • Gerry's wife calls Gerry, creating noise and attracting the zombies, killing most people in the process.
  • A woman sings into a microphone, encouraging other people to sing, unwittingly attracting zombies to their fortress, killing most people in the process
  • A woman opens a cupboard in the plane unnecessarily, unleashing a stowaway zombie, infecting the passengers, killing most people in the process
  • A guy partially opens a door, creating large noise, and then continues to OPEN THE DOOR MORE LOUDLY, attracting more zombies, putting everyone in extreme danger
I mean, that's too many counts, right? I dunno, I didn't dislike it, I just found it odd, certainly towards the end where it just came A BIT tedious. Oh and also, there's a moment which was meant to be taken entirely seriously and I just want to know if anyone else got this.
Okay so the scientist guy gets off the plane, zombies attack, he panics, slips and accidentally SHOOTS HIMSELF IN THE FACE. WHAT. I mean I guess it's possible but it just seems really weird. It was hilarious though. I love unintentional humor.


There's a great score with many tense pieces that go along well with the way the film is running, most notably Isolated System by Muse, which has a great rhythm and melodic simplicity that adds to the thrills and scares of the movie. 
The zombies themselves are great in this movie, and really reinforces the point made in 28 Days Later, there's nothing more terrifying than fast zombies. There are great awesome shots of waves of zombies cascading down streets and anthill like piles reaching skyward. There's also great make up used for them in the third act, when we're up more close and personal with them, which looks really good. Top marks my friends.
The ending to this movie, or what the characters are trying to achieve, is great, and although it doesn't make up for the oddly placed third act, it really brings home the themes of the film: Hope and Survival. It's feasible, makes sense and is actually quite clever, it portrays the zombies as something more intelligent than we would have previously believed.
So, is World War Z the film the die-hard book fans have been waiting for? I doubt it, but seeing as I haven't read the book I can't say for sure. But what it we have is a tense, action filled zombie movie, maybe less about family as the trailers would have us believe, but more about what something like this would do to people, less about the cause of the infection and more about what people do to ensure it stops. It's great fun for the scares and thrills, with great technical skill involved. Will it go viral in cinemas? Maybe, there's still a lot of risk for a zombie blockbuster. But like those in the zombie apocalypse, let's all hope for the best.

I give World War Z 3.5 stars out of 5

So what are your thoughts on World War Z? If you are a fan of the book, did the movie disappoint you?