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World War Z Grades Much Higher in the Alphabet

<i>World War Z</i> Grades Much Higher in the Alphabet

Release Date: June 21, 2013
Rating:  Rated PG-13 for intense frightening zombie sequences, violence and disturbing images
Genre:  Action, Drama, Horror
Run Time:  116 minutes
Director:  Marc Forster
Cast:  Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Daniella Kertesz

Summer seems to bring out the action movies and there's plenty of action to be had in World War Z. Not a whole lot of plot, not much emotional pull, but a lot of action, which begs the question: how is it that dead (or undead) people can move so fast? This is especially noticeable in 3D, when moaning, gape-mouthed creatures tend to materialize right in front of your nose. But more about that later.

World War Z (Z is for zombies), based on a 2006 novel by Max Brooks, is part Global-Warming Doomsday Scenario, part Hero Story, and entirely Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading). Pitt's in virtually every scene, single-handedly saving the world from a mysterious virus that has turned much of the population into the walking dead. Brad is Gerry Lane, a former United Nations employee turned stay-at-home dad. It's never clear exactly what he did for the UN but it seems to have been important, deadly, and probably awesome. These days he's awesome at making pancakes for his wife and two young daughters until a sudden, violent outbreak of zombies turns the family's morning commute into a desperate fight for survival. Naturally, Gerry still has a UN muckety-muck on speed dial and, naturally, a helicopter is dispatched to pick up the family—if they can survive long enough to make the rendezvous.

As a real-life dad, Pitt hits all the right notes when Gerry is dealing with his terrified daughters. Gerry's wife Karin (Mireille Enos, Gangster Squad) is no slouch as a parent, either. If a zombie apocalypse should occur, these are the kind of people you want to be stranded with. Unfortunately for the film, Karin is quickly relegated to a supporting role, murmuring encouragement into the phone. And Daniella Kertesz does a nice job as Israeli soldier Segen, but she's not around quite long enough to really embed in our emotions. Gerry, meanwhile, goes on a globe-hopping mission to find a cure and save the world, giving Pitt the chance to look heroic in various exotic locales.

The whirlwind world tour makes the story jumpy but it does allow for some pretty spectacular scenes of widespread zombie carnage. The sheer scale of what amounts to a plague of zombies storming the walls of Jerusalem is particularly impressive. High-level shots of city streets streaming with panicked people are balanced by more personal moments like a young boy watching his zombie-fied father fall to his death and the quiet intensity of terrified people silently building a suitcase barricade in an attempt to keep infected passengers on the other end of a plane.

While Gerry makes a pretty decent hero, all the explosions, gore, and heart-stopping "gotcha" moments didn't quite make up for the lack of something… let’s call it heart. We want Gerry to save the world and be reunited with his family, but there isn't anything to bring a tear to the eye or cause the audience to cheer. Maybe having the United Nations as the good guys took some of the Independence Day-esque national pride out of the experience? It doesn't help that the supposed-to-be-tension-filled climactic scene is a bit of a yawn (although the unnamed zombie featured in that scene did an exceptionally nice job as a menacing people-eater with a hankering for a serving of Pitt). Isn't an action movie supposed to have a big triumphant ending? This one was more depressing than uplifting but there was at least a glimmer of hope for humanity.

To recap: Despite all the noise about reshoots and production difficulties, World War Z is a film with plenty of action, a few amusing moments, a lot of zombies, and a whole lot of Brad Pitt. There are certainly worse combinations at the cineplex! It's not overly gruesome (only PG-13) and mostly keeps the thrills and chills coming. Not a bad choice for summertime fun... assuming zombies are your idea of fun.


  • Drugs/Alcohol: Some drinking; what appears to be a robber in a pharmacy helps a character find prescription meds for a child with asthma.
  • Language/Profanity:  A few uses of as*, he**, cra*, sh**, and a couple of f-bombs.
  • Sex/Nudity: Some zombies are a bit unkempt, but no sex. One married couple shown sleeping in bed together, but nothing risqué.
  • Violent/Frightening/Intense: Those three words pretty much sum up eighty percent of the film. Countless people are bitten and torn apart by zombies, only to become zombies themselves and start the cycle all over again. Car wrecks, plane crashes (after a hole is blown in the side and people are sucked out), shooting, beating, stabbing, explosions, a hand is hacked off, bodies and parts of bodies flying about... and did I mention the zombies eating people? It’s an action movie, heavy on the action, and most of it pretty real looking.
  • Spiritual Themes: It's an apocalyptic scenario where the world as we know it comes crashing down and people behave according to their codes. Some rise to the occasion while others descend into depravity. It could lead to interesting "what would you do?" conversations. A lengthy scene takes place in Jerusalem, with an interesting perspective on why the (fictional) Israeli government acted as they did.

Publication date: June 21, 2013