World War Z (2013)

World War Z

I was mondo excited about World War Z.

Disclosures:

  • I have not read the book.
  • Having spent my formative years working in bookstores and associating with die-hard nerds, I could not fail to be aware of its Cult Status.
  • I’m told the film is nothing like it.
  • I hope to read it one day but I couldn’t wait any longer to watch such a long-anticipated film.

 

Now, may I say: FREAKIN’ AWESOME.

This film was unique in a genre one might be forgiven for thinking had few new tricks left to show, proving the zombie flick really can be continually reinvented.

It was breathless, edge-of-your-seat stuff, and lest you think I am merely doling out clichés, allow me to elaborate: not once did my heartbeat drop anywhere near a resting rate, my butt didn’t touch the rear half of the seat and the whole time I spent jumping, squirming, gasping and clutching the Ministry’s sleeve/hand/leg/arm in the manner I imagine a wife going through labour might. Rare it is to see a movie so relentlessly suspenseful, without much of any kind of break.

Now, for the zombies: incredibly frightening in pack form, with some amazing scenes in which they swarmed like no zombie swarm ever has in my recollection. They were beyond fast; these were ninja-zombies, shown off in scenes such as one in which the pack moved as though it were floodwater; and another in which they formed an instant living (sorry, undead) zombie stalagmite that grew almost faster than the viewer could comprehend.

Up close, individual specimens did not disappoint, but clicked and spasmed and twitched, making toe-curling velociraptor-type noises. In short, these were ultra-cool zombies that will add something special to the canon.

No spoilers, but the plot and the “science” also had new things to offer the genre and there were new survival techniques, as one would hope, given the text the film was based on.

One I particularly liked was simple but beautifully practical: duct-taping “armour” around the arms and legs. In a zombie apocalypse, I can see this being useful. If this has done before, I humbly ask someone set me straight, but I don’t think it has.

Refreshingly, and probably also something we can thank the book for, this was one of those rare zombie movies where the characters don’t talk about the virus, the spread, the disease or the turn, or any other euphemism for zombies, as though use of the word would disturb our suspension of disbelief. That’s usually fine and suits the movies, but it was nice to watch a tale in which the characters aren’t all pretending they’ve never heard of zombies.

It’s hard to talk about zombies without using the word. For example, a quick check back through this review reveals I’ve already used the word 11 times (down from this point in the draft, when it was 14). That makes me happy. The more zombie, the better.

Music was sparing but evocative (thanks to Muse and Marco Beltrami) and when it was absent, the silence was used with equal effect.

One last note – and I look forward to the day when this won’t be noteworthy – Gerry Lane (Pitt) didn’t have a hot wife. She was skinny but not psycho skinny, she wasn’t traditionally pretty but wasn’t ugly. She was an ordinary human being. She was beautiful, with a stunning smile. It’s nice to see a “real woman” being used in a story about people who are supposed to be real.

The rest of the movie showed similar restraint. It was completely mind-bendingly exciting, but it wasn’t Hollywood and it was completely naturalistic.

The Ministry went straight home and started shooting zombies, bless him.

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