World War Z is the latest zombie movie to hit theaters. Brad Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a UN employee, in this intense conversion of Max Brook’s book of the same name. Lane and his family are part of a world that becomes overrun by people who have been infected by some sort of virus and the virus subsequently turns them into the undead. Lane’s job is to find out where the virus originated and attempt to find a cure.
Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, The Kite Runner) directs this swift apocalyptic film and the biggest take-away you should get from it is the lack of blood. Most zombie movies are just splatter-fests filled with unnecessary gore. I applaud World War Z for refraining from using gratuitous violence and focusing more the the story. Many times the zombies and the blood are the biggest draws for a movie like this, but with Brad Pitt starring, you do not need to add in the gratuity. It is refreshing to see a story-driven zombie movie.
Brad Pitt excels as Gerry Lane, a man who needs to find a way to end the virus, and Mirielle Enos (The Killing) does a nice job as Lane’s wife, Karen, whose job is to stay strong with the kids. A family apart, but doing what they can to keep it together. The wild-card in the movie is Daniella Kertesz, who plays Segen, a female solider Lane befriends in Jerusalem. She is sensational in the film and the relationship between Lane and Segen is one to draw inspiration from. Lane saves the life of Segen, who gets bitten by an infected, but Lane saves her life by quickly chopping off her hand. It is a dramatic scene, which is only enhanced by the fact that Fortster does not show the hand being severed. It all happens so fast. Segen gets bit. Lane momentarily pauses, but then springs into action by grabbing her knife and strikes the hand clean off. Lane attempts to bandage the wound. As he is helping her, he is counting to eight-one-thousand, making sure she does not become an infected, as it takes seven seconds to take effect. A fellow soldier has a gun to her head, just in case she turns. By the time Lane is done counting, Segen is still human. A life is saved and there was not a spurt of blood from the lost hand. No horror. No shock. No shot of a severed hand on the ground. No spewing blood from where the hand used to be. No time. Time is precious and they had to move on.
Each second matters, not only in that scene, but throughout the movie. The virus spreads so quickly, which is why the movie progresses so quickly. Lane needs to get to the bottom of everything and time is running out, so there is never a second to spare. There is a poignant scene when Segen and Lane are on a plane out of Jerusalem and he is administering better care to heal her hand. You see the calmness, the steadfastness of Lane. You see his experience. You see why he was chosen for this task. He keeps a level head, even if the events around him would dictate otherwise. He helps Segen with such ease that she thinks he is a doctor. It is that assurance, that ability to stay strong in the face of adversity that makes this movie tick. It follows his life, his actions, and his actions are thought-out and calculated. So the world may be falling apart, but he is not. Throughout the chaos, he is able to understand and learn about his environment, which leads him to solving the epidemic.
The most reassuring aspect of the film is how it begins and ends with Lane’s family. In the beginning, Lane is at home, speaking about how good his eggs are, and ends with him finally being reunited with his family at a refugee camp. You feel the exhaustion for Lane. How the whole ordeal took its toll on him. But through everything, he had his family. He had that reason to continue, and it was a reason that we could all relate to and understand. Family is important to all of us.
World War Z handles the zombie/infected/end of the world genre with ease. It uses grace with its storytelling and does not incorporate the usual zombie antics into the film, making it stand out from the usual crop of zombie movies. The performances are strong and the scope of the story is relatable, as Lane is a family man first. Also, you are able to appreciate the speed of the problem. It escalates so quickly and actions must happen just as fast. But with as fast as everything happens, you are still grounded in reality, as Lane always has his family in mind. If only we could all be as comfortable and calm as Lane is in the face of a world-wide extinction of humans.