BY JENNA SIMPSON
I, like many others, was somewhat skeptical about turning the excellent and unique book by Max Brooks into a film. If you haven’t read World War Z, its subtitle is “An Oral History of the Zombie Wars,” and it is written as a series of interviews with people who have survived the zombie apocalypse. The retrospective narrative works exceedingly well in the book–and the audiobook version, which is read by a number of famous actors–but didn’t seem to lend itself to a very exciting story on film. And yet, it seemed somehow wrong or like a betrayal to choose one protagonist out of so many great storylines from the book, and to set the film during and not after the zombies takeover.
I’m happy to report that, for me, the shift worked. To tell the book as written could have been boring, and this way, we get to see the action unfolding. I suppose it could have been structured as a series of flashbacks, but that may have been a bit hard to pull off, and resulted in a film that was disjointed and choppy. This way, the story flowed and progressed naturally, and we really had a hero to root for in the (ever-handsome) Brad Pitt. I thought it worked.
A few observations:
- Fast-moving zombies are terrifying. I will take my zombies slow-moving, thank you very much!
- Mireille Enos was better for me in this than in either Big Love or The Killing. She didn’t seem so flat in this. That was welcome; I was a bit worried by her casting to be honest.
- Some obvious holes in the plot, including a miraculous stroke of geographic luck.
- The ongoing, general trend in zombie stories of zombie-ism being caused by a virus is continued here, although there was less explanation about its origins than there was in the book, from what I recall.
- Brad Pitt still looks good, although he is getting crepe-y around the eyes. I hope he never gets plastic surgery. He turns 50 this year. (Sorry, that was way more gossipy than I usually get, but I do love him still.)
- Just as important, Brad Pitt was believable for me. Maybe it was the urgency of the plot, but he didn’t fall into that thing where famous actors can never play a role without just seeming like they are being themselves. (See Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts and George Clooney.)
- Great visual effects. Just great. The zombies learning they could pile on top of each other higher and higher to crest over a tall wall was chilling to watch.
- The director did an excellent, excellent job of creating tension, discomfort, and suspense. I spent more than half the movie holding my breath!
- It was a bit of a conventional action movie, but I tend to dig on that, so I was fine with it.
- Holla, Nova Scotia!
- Apparently, there will be a sequel.
The one thing this movie taught me, as did I Am Legend before it, is that I am wholly unprepared for the zombie apocalypse. I don’t even have water stored in my house, much less the physical capacity to outrun a scarily fast zombie!
And off to the gym I go.