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Home / Mint-lounge / Features /  Film Review | World War Z

The latest movie from Marc Forster, whose wildly varied filmography ranges from the gritty (Monster’s Ball) to the uplifting (The Kite Runner), boils down Max Brooks’s post-apocalyptic zombie novel into a familiar yarn about a father sweating to save the world and then coming home for dinner with his family once the job is done.

The father in World War Z is played by Brad Pitt, that hunk of blond brawn who is ageing into a hunk of blond brawn. His face contains hints of the passage of time—he is 49—and his tender screen act carries over from his off-screen image as the pater familias of a brood of multi-racial kids, but his ability to fix attention, especially of the female movie goer, remains undiminished. Pitt’s charisma is severely underutilized in this zombie pandemic drama, whose evocation of hell on earth went through its own development hell (screenplay rewrites, reshoots, disagreements between the film-maker and his lead), but he manages to make his buttoned-down, reactive character as interesting as the proceedings permit.

Unlike the novel, which is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which the very idea of nationhood as we know it has collapsed, the movie starts in conventional fashion, with an all-American family sharing a few moments of breakfast banter before proceeding to run for their lives from fast-moving and ravenous undead creatures. The drill is a familiar one from past entries in the horror sub-genre that has often not lived up to the subversive intentions of its pioneer, George A. Romero. Pitt’s Gerry Lane is a former United Nations employee whose mysterious but convenient previous work experience adequately prepares him to jet-set across the globe for a solution. Gerry travels to South Korea and Jerusalem and seems poised to come to India after a character mentions that the Israelis were tipped off about the pandemic by an Indian government alert about “rakshashas" on the prowl.

Even as you chuckle at this rare spark of preparedness from a usually comatose government, the story shifts to its most compelling chapter, set in a remote laboratory in the UK containing a few hold-out scientists, several zombies, and a possible cure to the pandemic. The best performance in the movie comes from one of the extras who puts on a superb rabid dog imitation as he claws mindlessly and desperately at the door of a cabin concealing Gerry.

Note to Hollywood executives green-lighting the movie: Did nobody think of changing the title so as to remove any suggestion of boredom?

World War Z is never lacking in visual panache, but it doesn’t have the dramatic momentum needed to steer an all-too-familiar story. The early tense, suspenseful sequences and the crisply choreographed rescue mission in the UK facility bookend a ponderous and predictable survivors-on-the-run middle section. Stripped of the political underpinnings of the novel, the 116-minute movie proceeds as a series of slickly shot and niftily designed but ultimately rote set pieces. World War Z is out in 2D, 3D and IMAX versions, but the 2D version works just fine.

World War Z released in theatres on Friday

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