"World War Z" is worth the Fight
Place and mood are just as essential to the horror genre as the creatures or killers who set the story in motion. Usually its one or two people trapped in an isolated area that has to escape or fend off their nemesis. The intimacy of the locale with limited light and movement restriction adds to the suspense. A long stretch of hallway with a door at the end and a mystery behind it can be more nerve-racking than witnessing the most frightful characters chasing down their victims. Practically every horror film from as early as "Dracula" of 1931 to the "Saw" franchise has relied on this formula to build suspense.
Director Marc Forster’s "World War Z" is a different type of horror movie. There is a zombie infection and its worldwide. The streets are overflowing with chaos and there doesn’t seem to be a town, city or country that isn’t being overrun by these creatures. Philadelphia native Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his wife, Mireille (Karin Lane), along with their two daughters are caught up in the panic as the healthy try to flee from the swarming infected zombies. These zombies seem to be hungry for human flesh but all they do is bite and move on. Unfortunately, if a human is bitten you can add one more to Team Zombie.
Gerry is lucky enough- in this situation- to have worked for the United Nations so he is called back to duty by his former boss Fana Mokoena (Theirry Umutoni), the UN Deputy Secretary- General. Gerry and his family are flown to an aircraft carrier where the military has set up their headquarters. Fana asks Gerry to team up with a virologist, Dr. Fassbach (Elyes Gabel), to find the source of the infection with the intent of discovering an antidote for the virus. This is where "World War Z" veers away from the usual rules of a horror flick and for that matter the action picture.
Mr. Forster’s sly opening credits show a hint at how this disease was able to get as far as it did. During a montage of television broadcasts, squeezed in between low brow talk shows and fluff newscasts are scientists warning viewers of a possible epidemic that will spread wildly if we don’t do something about it soon. Did anyone do anything about it? Sound familiar? After the opening credits Mr. Forster doesn’t waste any time turning on the action. He creates tension as the family is stuck in traffic and several odd occurrences are noticed by Gerry. Soon they are swallowed up by a wave of panic that has spread through the Philadelphia streets. Gerry and family find their way to a Newark, New Jersey apartment complex where they await a helicopter to take them to the aircraft carrier. Here Mr. Forster relies on the old formula of creatures pursuing the family in dark hallways and close quarters. Mr. Forster is one of a handful of directors working today who knows how to shoot a simple action sequence. The norm for an action sequence today is blurry images cut multiple times hoping the chaos generates excitement. Unfortunately it only sows confusion. The viewer cannot grasp who is doing what to whom. Mr. Forster’s sequence of Gerry’s family eluding zombies is clear and concise which in turn increases the intensity.
When Gerry and family get onto the ship the movie becomes something else- a mystery thriller. He is assigned to find the origin of the virus with Dr. Fassback who heightens the intellectual angle of the movie by outlining what they’re looking for. The Doctor explains that their adversary is Mother Nature and She is the greatest of all serial killers. But she leaves clues around because like all serial killers she wants to be discovered. The solution may be hiding in plain sight. The intrigue builds when pieces of information are fleshed out and questions are answered. Why was South Korea the first to report zombie-like activity? Why is there no zombie infections reported in North Korea? Why was Israel the only country to build a wall to keep the zombies at bay?
Mr. Pitt is so much in the tabloids that every movie he appears in is a fresh reminder of what a talented actor he is. With Gerry there is no bravado ala Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis or Smith. He cannot blast his way to save civilization. Instead Gerry carries around real feelings- fear, tenderness, an intellectual intensity- making him one of the more interesting action heroes created for the movies. Of course with an action hero you do need action and Mr. Pitt is convincing as he fends off zombies. This could be the new action character of the twenty-first century and it is a breath of fresh air.
"World War Z" pits humans against Mother Nature when potential natural disasters get out of hand. It is a movie that subtly lets the world know that to ignore the problem will cause unmitigated headaches later. But it also puts its faith in the intellect and determination of people to solve these issues. It is a very entertaining, suspenseful and creepy movie as well.