World War Z (2013)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 6/29/13
Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos

Another tale of a zombie apocalypse, as an undead plague wipes out nearly all humankind in a matter of days. Retired UN peace keeper Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) has friends in high places and manages to get his family to relative safety, but in return he has to find the source of the outbreak and look for a cure. Unfortunately, Lane's support team gets wiped out almost instantly and he's on his own for the majority of the film, traveling to South Korea, Israel, and the UK with a trail of chaos and destruction in his wake. An extremely tough and lucky guy, he eventually stumbles upon the undead's weakness and formulates a daring and desperate escape plan, which gives humanity a fighting chance at survival. The film ends on a note of hope, even though the entire world is in ruins.

It's easy to see how the film went horribly over budget, as the scenes of mass hysteria and destruction are awe inspiring and play out on a huge scale. It's primarily a star vehicle for Brad Pitt, and he does an excellent job of holding it together. Gerry is a strong and sensitive character, and his military background gives him a serious edge. He is such a bad-ass that he incredulously manages to chop off someone's hand with a single slice of a knife. For some reason, out of all the outrageous and implausible things in the film, that one bothered me the most. Mireille Enos is fantastic as Lane's strong, smart, and supportive wife, which is pretty much the exact same role she played in "Gangster Squad" (2013).

I can't overstate how impressive and effective the visual effects are, and they're the real star of the show. Unfortunately, they all but disappear in the second half of the film, as the story becomes a moody and claustrophobic "let's just sneak past the zombies" thriller, which bears an uncanny resemblance to playing a "Resident Evil" video game. The film works best as a chase film, and the scenes of Lane and his family trying to outrun the deadly horde are riveting. However, when the film slows down and allows the characters to catch their breath, it becomes dreadfully dull and cliché. Given the threadbare plot, it's a shame the film can't sustain its momentum and maintain a high level of excitement and engagement throughout its entire running time.