Movie review – World War Z: Nothing ‘B’ about Brad and the zombies

2013-07-21 14:00

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Bespoke zombie choreography, an A-list Hollywood star and our own Fana Mokoena make World War Z a far cry from the low-budget, B-grade fare that litter the genre, writes Gayle Edmunds

For the opening scene of World War Z, the makers crashed 150 different cars – so that gives you the first clue that this is no low-budget zombie flick.

The second clue is it stars Brad Pitt as the world’s last great hope, so there’s nothing “B” about it. Based on the novel by Max Brooks, the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft – so he has some serious creative juice in his veins – World War Z is what you might call an intelligent horror film.

Which is why you have a scenario that should be a Hollywood oxymoron – Pitt attached as producer and star of a zombie film. And he outbid Leonardo DiCaprio for the privilege.

The South African angle is that our own Fana Mokoena, famous here for Generations, but increasingly well known in A-lister fair – such as Safe House with Denzel Washington, Machine Gun Preacher with Gerard Butler, and the acclaimed Hotel Rwanda with Don Cheadle – is in it. And he doesn’t play a bit part either.

Pitt is Gerry, a former UN investigator who lives quietly in Philadelphia with his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and his two daughters. But the school run one morning becomes a slaughterhouse as people begin attacking each other in an orgy of blood.

Gerry’s instincts kick in and he aims to get his family to safety. While he’s doing that, he gets a phone call that is, on the surface, a godsend. His old boss, Thierry (Fana Mokoena), offers to airlift him and his family to safety, but the price is a return to his former job.

So, Gerry sets off to the other side of the world in search of “patient zero” in order to find a cure for the disease that is turning people into flesh-eating crazies.

The film then deals with a couple of the most irritating aspects of zombie lore: how they catch you if all they can do is shamble along and how to defeat them in a way that doesn’t include mashing them with a machete.

This is the reason why it is an “intelligent” zombie film. It isn’t a mindless blood fest like the originators of this genre (Night of the Living Dead, Evil Dead). Instead, it’s the story of a man trying to save his family – and, by extension, humanity.

The film makers, with Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) at the helm, didn’t just slap some greasepaint on extras and dress them funny to create zombies. The process included movement specialists to create bespoke choreography for the individual zombies – another sign this has serious money behind it.

The plot clips along pleasingly with Pitt piecing together the puzzle of the disease’s origins, making him much more than just a zombie hunter. He’s on a noble quest to save the human race, which is fitting for Hollywood’s biggest star. It just wouldn’t have been the same if he’d been a hillbilly with a spade.

World War Z will doubtlessly get the sequel its ending hints at, as it had already grossed $180?million (R1.8?billion) this week, a mere $10?million off its cost, in just three weeks in America. Moviegoers do love a good zombie flick, especially if it stars Mr Pitt.

Film: World War Z (UIP)

Director: Marc Forster

Featuring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Matthew Fox, David Morse and Fana Mokoena

Rating: 7/10

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