Friday, June 21, 2013

Zombie Apocalypse: World War Z

You wouldn’t call me a big fan of the zombie genre. I’m not into those novels that insert zombies into Jane Austen novels or Victorian history. After a couple of episodes of The Walking Dead I was bored. But after a year or so of resistance, I read World War Z, by Max Brooks, and I have to say it’s a tremendous novel. It is a wonderfully imaginative masterpiece that vividly depicts a global zombie apocalypse in the form of very convincing oral history.

The film, World War Z, directed by Marc Forster, starring Brad Pitt, only achieves the global, journalistic approach of the novel in an effective news footage montage showing cleanup measures that comes after the film’s climax, but as an entity, it is a relentlessly gripping experience full of apocalyptic mayhem on a grandly visual scale. The book is quite a different thing, but I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

The action starts quickly and with a narrow focus on the family of Gerry Lane (Pitt), a UN investigator. There’s no prologue, no fooling around. Once infected, humans change into zombies in seconds. And these zombie don’t shuffle. They run! In a scene the evokes the panic captured by Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, and seems to imitate the scene in The Day After Tomorrow when the flood inundates a traffic jam on Fifth Avenue, Gerry, his wife, and their two daughters flee the rapid spread of the zombie virus in a masterfully intense scene full of intricate chaos. Forster builds nice suspense in the congested street, as collisions and explosions grow in intensity. The suspense continues in the hallways of a New Jersey apartment building. As Gerry’s hunt for the source of the virus takes him from Korea to Israel, the scope of the zombie disaster widens, mounting to widescreen panoramas of mind-boggling proportions.

With no explanation of what caused this virus, and with very little exposition of facts and figures, except by a delightfully enthusiastic young biologist who expresses his fascination for viruses, the film spends most of its time building up one set-piece disaster after another. The movie is very different from the novel, but I never felt disappointed. I enjoyed the film’s relentless sense of dread and its persistent tension, made all the more enjoyable by Pitt’s portrayal of Gerry as he interprets the virus’s quirks in an attempt to find a way to defeat it

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