by Padraic Coffey
There is a moment in the rather overlooked internet video Kevin Curtis is a Dead Man in which a ‘mockney’ gangster, not dissimilar to those of Guy Ritchie’s oeuvre, informs another that “zombie films are the obvious choice for the unimaginative filmmaker”. It was a jab at the likes of Marc Price’s 2008 film Colin, reportedly shot for a budget of £45 on a standard definition mini-dv camcorder, one of many British films parodied in the highly amusing short. Such cost-effectiveness is light-years away from the excess of World War Z, the first in a proposed trilogy of films based on Max Brooks’ 2006 novel of the same name, which cost somewhere in the vicinity of $200 million dollars. It will no doubt recoup its budget, owing to the presence of Brad Pitt in the central role, not to mention the inflated ticket prices that are part and parcel of the films’ needless 3D.
Its plot is a rather predictable mélange of action film and (PG-13) horror. Former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane (Pitt) is forced out of retirement – where have we heard that before? – when an epidemic sweeps America, turning entire cities into ravenous zombies and forcing the remaining uninfected to shield themselves as best they can. While his wife (Mireille Enos) and two daughters are kept safe on an army base by friend and colleague Thierry (Fana Mokoena), Lane is sent to South Korea, Israel and finally Britain in a quest to find the source of the virus.
Beginning with a collage of fictional news clips – featuring pundits such as Piers Morgan – World War Z recalls several films that have come before, among them Matt Reeves’ monster movie Cloverfield (a bystander is seen filming the chaos of the opening scenes on her Smartphone). Though not entirely predictable – the token ‘intellectual’ character is disposed of mere minutes after being introduced – the film follows a safe pattern towards its open-ended climax. Geographically-aware viewers may ponder at Lane’s ability to fly between continents in what seems a conveniently short length of time.
A climactic plane crash is reminiscent of Frank Marshalls’ Alive, though Pitt’s Lane is surely among the most invincible characters of recent cinema. A stopover in Israel is also rather ham-fistedly didactic, with Palestinian Arabs bonding with Israeli Jews over the crisis, only to attract the attention of the gathering swarm outside. Despite a 15 certificate in Britain and Ireland, World War Z is far more Die Hard 4.0 than 28 Days Later. Don’t expect geysers of blood ‘n’ guts akin to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which boasted ‘scenes of violence which may be considered shocking’ back in 1978. Though it entertains for much of its running time, World War Z is little more than a neutered Hollywood take on iconic subgenre of horror cinema.