World War Z

Seeing as how the entire United States was apparently utterly unprepared for the zombie apocalypse here, I'm guessing the CDC wasted a little too much time insisting that there was no zombie outbreak happening, and a few too many people believed them. It might not have been entirely their fault, though; zombification happens so quickly it is hard to see it coming. This of course means that it should have been close to impossible for it to spread across oceans the way it does, but hey, why should places like the British Isles get to have all the fun?

Brad Pitt (Megamind) is both producer and lead actor, and let me say right now how relieved I am that his production company beat Leonardo DiCaprio's production company for the rights to the novel. Brad does all right in the lead, better than I expected, but I think it would have been quite another story if Leo had nabbed this as a star vehicle for himself. Anyway, Brad is Gerry Lane, former United Nations investigator. I didn't realize they had investigators as such, but I guess someone has to make a career of looking into all those allegations of human rights violations.

Gerry's wife, Karin (Mireille Enos, Gangster Squad) is shockingly the right age to be the mother of their two adorable daughters, Rachel and Connie (Abigail Hargrove and Sterling Jerins). They live in Philadelphia. It isn't actually filmed in Philadelphia, however, since for some reason it was thought to be more cost-effective to make Glasgow look like Philly by shipping over a bunch of American cars and signs and things. I don't get it, either. Maybe M. Night Shyamalan said they couldn't use his city.

They're driving the kids to school, I think, when the apocalypse strikes, and after that the action doesn't let up very often. Since it's PG-13, however, that action is surprisingly non-bloody. Someone loses a hand, which is obviously unpleasant, but most of that happens off-screen, which is probably also a good way to save on the cost of special effects. Don't start thinking it's family-friendly, but the weak of stomach won't suffer too much.

The other good news is that for once we actually see the global effects of something that's supposed to be affecting the entire world. There are characters from the U.S. in unlikely places -- David Morse (Drive Angry), for example, is supposed to be an ex-CIA agent locked up in South Korea -- but Gerry gets to travel all over the world even though Brad is mostly in the UK and Hungary.

Now for the bad news. If you're hoping for something at all like the novel, you won't get it. I didn't read it, but the guys sitting behind me in the theatre had, and they occasionally whispered together about how different it was -- which was annoying, granted, but also helpful in a way. It was certainly nothing like the synopsis of the novel I read. The ending here isn't exactly a quick fix to the whole problem, but compared to the book it's a lot more melodramatic and implausible. I wish I could complain about it properly, but it's one of those things that only seem to make sense as long as you don't think about it for more than a second or two. After that you start to see all the loose ends and all you can think of is how silly that was.

However, since it was better than I expected overall, and Brad's acting never once made me cringe, I'll give it three out of five. The acting was good all around, though you won't see many faces familiar in the U.S. since they did make some effort to have an international cast, too. Segen, the Israeli soldier who helps Gerry is played by an actual Israeli (Daniella Kertesz), for instance. And despite the PG-13 rating, it's occasionally a very shocking movie, which zombie flicks should be. But I really can't go any higher than three. It's much better than, say, Resident Evil, but being better than that isn't exactly a challenge.

A ravenous zombie leaps at a crowd of people -- aka the buffet line.


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