Monday, July 1, 2013

Love: World War Z

Brad Pitt steps away from the on-screen snacking, laces up his shit-kickers, and leaps directly into my worst nightmare in World War Z, a nonstop action flick that blends George A. Romero influence with the off-putting plausibility of Contagion. After falling victim to a run of rumored production setbacks, reshoots, and (what I'd consider) a piss poor advertising campaign, the once-much anticipated adaptation of the Max Brooks bestseller now reads more like a sleeper success than a runaway blockbuster.  Sure, the adaptation boasts a huge name and explosions to spare, but little has amped up to the glossy, kinetic heights we're used to with our summer cash-grabs. Instead, there's something a little rough and raw to World War Z. Not sloppy, but somehow just...subdued. The action here is on a human scale, and it doesn't overplay its hand. While cult fans of the novel may be disappointed with the way the material has been tampered with, and by the loss of the oral history element fueling the experience, as an action film: World War Z is surprisingly sturdy stuff.       
Note that I said 'action' movie and not 'zombie' flick. Not because it's not a good entry into the zombie canon, no. All things considered, it's a uniquely straight-laced approach to content that's been overplayed and recycled to hell in a rash of trendy variations on the 'zombie apocalypse'.  What makes this particular film just a little bit different is the way it seems to want to avoid overusing the heavily made-up/CG monsters.  World War Z isn't just another run-on zombie pile-up, though it abuses the conventions of the genre. Maybe it's a special effects glitch, maybe it's the abundance of re-cutting, but somewhere along the way the film managed to lean a little more towards the character's struggle than disaster carnage. 'Zombie' feels like too kitschy a word for the seriousness of Z's action, and though the undead plague victims are just that, it's be tough to file this away under a horror subheading.

The ideas, though, are conceptually frightening, and if Marc Forster and Plan B have succeeded in anything, it's using a global claustrophobia to its adrenaline-pumping advantage. Z spins into near immediate action, briefly introducing us to Gerry and Karin Lane's (Pitt and The Killing's Mireille Enos, respectively) happy, nuclear family before thrusting them into an urban hellscape.  Gerry is a sort of United Nations action figure, a guy who used to get dropped into the third world war zones for a living. Experiencing the sudden arrival of those conditions in his native land, however? That's a slightly different story.  Still, he's the man for the job: a survivor, one of the only people still at the government's disposal. And so, the Lane's are airlifted to safety in exchange for Gerry's immediate departure on a planet-hopping suicide mission to dig up Patient Zero. If he can guide a promising young doctor on a quest for a cure, humanity may still have some hope.    
On the way, Z rips the audience away from just about every tool we'd imagine at our disposal. The world becomes something experienced in tight corridors: bunkers, crowded airplanes, walled-in cities. Though the film makes only a stumbling effort to stress family and heart, there's something to the forced separation of Gerry and Karin that succeeds more in constructing a sense of complete isolation than in creating emotional drama.  Gerry loses contact. He's without hope, without information, without a means of communicating; and everywhere he goes? It's already too late. The further things get, the quicker the film moves. The quicker it moves, the more I found myself involved. Clattering teeth and a couple weak plot twists aside, World War Z engrosses with a power far beyond what it should be capable of. Though it's far from a landmark film in its genres or for its cast, this is a roller coaster of a movie movie, a popcorn thriller that exceeds expectations. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...