Let's just get down to it. I am not a zombie fan. After all, what do they do? They lumber around in a drunken stupor looking for fresh brains, they're terrible dressers and conversationalists, and they are so rude. Ever since George Romero's cult favorite NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, 1968, they have failed to impress me....until now with director Marc Forster's epic WORLD WAR Z.
How to approach a topic so overdone in movies and tv (the amazingly popular THE WALKING DEAD on AMC)? Forster and his writers have taken elements of the above zombie stories, thrown in a lot of CONTAGION, 2011, Stephen Soderberg's cautionary tale of a world wide viral outbreak with an all-star cast, and even more of the old-fashioned disaster genre from the 1970's (THE TOWERING INFERNO, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, et al).
Brad Pitt plays former UN employee Gerry Lane, who is called back into service when Philadelphia and many other cities around the world are overwhelmed by hordes of nasty zombies. Gerry is a true family man with a loving wife and two doting daughters, but he proves indispensable in finding a way to deal with this world disaster. The opening of the film is thrilling in a surreal and creepy way. Lane's family is caught in a huge traffic jam which becomes chaotic as zombies take over the city. The seemingly wild cross-cutting actually creates a true picture of panic in the streets. The film has many fine huge set pieces, the best of which takes place in Israel. The government has built the ultimate wall, not against Palestinians but zombies. Like other famous walls and fences in real life, it doesn't work. Swarms (as in bees, wasps) of zombies climbing atop each other to scale the wall are impressively realistic.
I won't go into the eventual climaxes, but they are worth the wait and the pounding suspense. WORLD WAR Z is primarily a horror thriller, but there is surprisingly little gore. The portrait of Lane and his family (his wife is played by the talented Mireille Enos of THE KILLING) is tender and personal and believable. Brad Pitt carries the film with an intensely emotional performance. In essence, WORLD WAR Z is the surprise dramatic adventure of the summer, and not a super hero in sight.