In many respects, World War Z is the ideal summer movie ride; grandiose, intense, and breathlessly paced. This is the zombie apocalypse rendered on an epic canvas, and it’s smartly conceived and visualized with a terrific sense of craft. Two sequences in particular – as U.N. hero Brad Pitt ventures into Jerusalem and later on an airplane filled with the infected, are the most exciting we’re likely to see this year.
But the film is missing a sense of intimacy amongst all that grandeur. The thrills would make out hearts beat even faster if we felt the beating heart of humanity a bit more vividly. The setup dedicates less than 5 minutes establishing the family dynamic between Pitt’s character, his wife (played by the terrifically talented actress Mireille Enos, who is woefully underused here), and their children, before their world goes to Hell. The rush of pace comes at the sacrifice of several potentially meaningful emotional beats, so a few of the family scenes don’t resonate as strongly as they should. Also missing are any real moments of personal horror in the film (zombie themes are never more potent than when your dearest loved one “turns” on you).
The film is to be commended for its complete lack of carnage and gore, though fans of the far more graphic The Walking Dead are likely to groan at their absence.
Criticisms aside, World War Z does deliver its fair share of awe-inspiring spectacle, cleanly directed action sequences that stand in sharp contrast to the herky-jerky camera work in Man of Steel, and several intelligent and original takes on a well-worn genre. (B)