Friday, 21 June 2013

World War Z (15)

There are pluses and minuses to doing the film of a popular book - on the upside you have a ready-made audience, but on the downside you've got an army of people with very high expectations...

So it is with World War Z (that's Zed. Not Zee. So there). The hype has been building as those who loved the work of Max Brooks await the visual feast of his finely-honed words.

Those of us who were less enamoured of the book were still intrigued as to how a series of interviews about a virus outbreak that creates a kind of zombie could be turned into a coherent, engaging film. Well, quite easily it turns out.

The story centres around Gerry Lane (played by the top notch Brad Pitt, who's production company has brought World War Z to the big screen), a retired UN blokie who still has friends in high places. Friends who can help when the zombie poop hits the fan - but at a price. That price being you've got to  go find what started it.

And thus, we have a movie.

Mr Lane has to go to South Korea, Israel and finally Wales in an effort to solve the mystery and find a cure. Along the way he'll run from many infected souls, inadvertently cause the destruction of a secure compound, run some more and have a drink.

While all this is going on, his wife Karin is stuck on a ship in the Atlantic. Which is a shame, because Mireille Enos is a fine actress. But here, the star of the American version of The Killing is asked to do nothing more than look worried, answer the phone and nap. That's it. Put a wig on me and I could do it.

To be fair, she gets to spend the first 20 minutes racing about and looking terrified and fretting about the children, but once they hit the boat that's it. A cardboard cut-out could have done what she's asked to do. Which is frankly a waste.

And the opening 20 minutes are good. It's fast-paced, tense and genuinely gripping. The fear sweeping across America is palpable and you daren't look away as the virus takes hold and people are transformed before your eyes.

It's once the family are on the boat that we hit problems.

The set-up itself is believable - Gerry being emotionally blackmailed to do what has to be done for the greater good as the world's death toll rises (we know it's rising, there's a digital counter on a big screen). There are just a few too many WTF moments.

Sent to South Korea to start his investigation, he finds a link to Israel. So he decides to fly to Israel. At a time when the world is in panic mode and filling a plane is more than a tad risky, no one raises any problems, any issues. He's found a pilot, the plane is fuelled and he's off while you sit there shaking your head.

And Israel is also a problem. Political subtexts aside (and they're not subtle), Gerry has already learnt that to keep the Manky Dreadfuls (if you haven't read Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, you should) at bay, it helps to keep quiet. The fact he fails to mention this to his contact has consequences. Massive consequences. And the digital body count counter almost explodes.

But on we go, more WTF moments whizz by (yes, the infected may be flesh-hungry crazies, but they can still keep quiet in an aeroplane toilet it seems) and we land in Wales. Itself a massive WTF moment. But go with it, because here things pick up again as Gerry dodges more zombiefied cretins in a bid to find a cure.

And he has a drink.

Now, I've seen a lot of films, so I understand about product placement - but even to someone who has seen more than his fair share of Bond films there is a moment that almost made me stand up and just shout "OH COME ON". I won't spoil it for you, but you'll know it when it happens. And then you'll want a Pepsi (no other soft drinks are available, it seems).

But, gripes aside, it's a good film. Not great. Not deep and thought provoking, but it's entertaining enough. As long as you don't mind not really being able to follow a lot of the fight scenes (too dark, too blurry, too much of everything - good luck with those bits if you choose the 3D option), then your two-and-a-bit hours will pass by pleasantly enough. Just don't ask too many questions.

Sure the ending will have you choking on the extra large serving of cheese while you wonder what the hell happened to the girl Gerry took with him from Israel (Segen, played by the excellently understated Daniella Kertesz), but your subliminal desire for a Pepsi might help you wash all that away.

Oh, a quick after thought - there will undoubtedly be a debate about how fast the infected can move, with the more traditional zombiests pointing out the undead can't shift like Usain Bolt. It's a good point, but it helps to remember this lot are infected by a virus, and so are not zombies in the more traditional sense. Think of them more in terms of 28 Days Later and less Night Of The Living Dead. It should help.

Pepsi anyone?

1 comment:

  1. Good review Kahn. It was good when it came down to scaring me and getting me a tad bit tense, but everything else was just one-dimensional and uninteresting. Although, I do have to say that it was nice to see my hometown get infected first in the movie.