World War Z – Brad Pitt and Marc Forster show us it’s cool to be PC (Film Review)

As far as end of the world genre pics, you could do a lot worse than World War Z which isn’t saying much for it, but remains true none the less. This is a fast paced scary thrill ride of a film that will probably make a lot of money despite its budget of two hundred million. It’s also nice to see not all that budget was spent on Pitt’s salary, as the enormity of the visual scope is not clouded over with obvious CGI or other kinds of heavily contrived graphics, but all the astounding effects of the ravenous rolling living dead are so cloaked in a kind of reality that is completely convincing. The 3D works well also – I sat in the front row with my glasses, a demographically appropriate early forties male, and my glass of wine, and I really felt right in the middle of it all.

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The thing to say about World War Z, is that for a zombie, end of the world themed horror flick it is heavily sanitized. This is a film you can take early teens to – even pre teens if they are cool with suspense. Considering the basic plot is about a virus, or some other malignancy, that infects humans and causes them to turn on each other and attack living humans, there is surprisingly little blood. Blood will be soaking through a bandage, never dripping from a tooth. There is no flesh tearing, no body parts flying and no screams of torture terror. The symbol of terror are clouded eyes. And those rolling, tumbling bodies.

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Phase two of sanitization, is the early recognition that violent retaliation doesn’t work and the enemy will have to be fought with brains. Brad Pitt plays an ex UN worker (!) who has given up working in dangerous zones because he has two children he wants to be at home for. If anyone can make the stay home dad look cool, its Brad Pitt. This is definitely a man who has his priorities worked out.  His sentimental, gentle watery eyes float over his wife Karen (Mireille Enos) and his two daughters (Abigail Hargrove and Sterling Jerins) like a man who is content with his lot, while still seeking to “learn from his kids”. Enos in return says what he needs to hear while understanding him telepathically. It’s all very much how we imagine it is in the Jolie-Pitt household. When Gerry is forced back into the “war Zone” he swore to leave, it is to discover early that might and  fists will be of no use against this enemy.

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Please note, this next section contains spoilers!

Phase three of santization is the bizarre addition of certain political references. Israelis are able to keep the enemy out by building walls! How clever!  Where did they come up with that idea? Deciding that “every human they save is one less they have to fight” they let a bunch of “Arabic looking” people holding Palestinian flags into the city.  A song of unification is sung, this attracts zombies, and soon everyone is ruined. Even the demographically appropriate male sitting next to me had a little WTF?  whisper in my direction at that point in the film. The Hollywood machine is the oddest of creatures at times. The rest of the world is treated in a rather off-handed manner.  Russia is a “black hole”, China (the political villain of the book) doesn’t exist, South Korea houses almost every nationality except Koreans,  and everyone who helps Gerry is either Israeli, black or an indeterminate Arab. It’s no real surprise that the final war will be fought on top of all that oil. Finally, we end up on the rolling green hills of Wales, gently populated by Americans.

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However, with all of my carry-on above, it works as what it is supposed to be – a huge scale popcorn movie that will make heaps of money. You don’t leave feeling you’ve been ripped off, and you do get some fantastic visuals that the 3D imaging enhances. That sound track works well too.  I don’t mind block buster fun, and like all propaganda films, World War Z doesn’t think it’s audience is stupid. Rather, it fears the audiences intelligence and tires to live up to it. I haven’t read Max Brook’s novel, but my understanding is it strays quite far from the original text which, given the real purpose of the film is to be a giant Hollywood orgasm, is probably a good thing. There were many moments where I curled my legs up in the chair and had my finger nails between my teeth, and that’s what you’re looking for in a film like this. If it delivers without a soul or a heart, it does deliver with a brain and enthusiasm, which go a long way in my world.

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