Review: Brad Pitt Battles Undead in ‘World War Z’

“What would you do if it all went down?” my husband asked the family at dinner the other night, “What’s your plan?”

This is not an unusual topic of conversation for us, I’m sorry to say. I think when you scratch a conservative, underneath you’ll find a person itching, just a little, for a Wild West frontier where they can protect their family with nothing more than a sixshooter and their wits.

Throughout a long, involved conversation covering many scenarios, we decided that in the case of zombies, the only thing to do is flee on boat.

Which is exactly what Brad Pitt does when the newly undead start making things unpleasant at the beginning of World War Z. 

This is not a thinking movie, this zombie flick. Nor is it a classic horror film. Rather, it is a bit of a hybrid that attempts to bring a big name and massive scope to the zombie genre, hoping for a mainstream hit.

To that point, it’s rated PG-13 and although billions of people die in unpleasant ways, the gore is kept to a minimum, the sexuality is nonexistent, and the language minimal. You could, if you were the sort of family who enjoys horror flicks together, take your steel-nerved youngsters to the film.

People who enjoy horror and watch the AMC show The Walking Dead will be underwhelmed by the film. It has neither the character development nor the goopy gory horror element of the TV show.

Think of it as a gateway zombie flick.

Gerry (Pitt) and Karin (Mireille Enos) are minding their business with their two daughters when the populace starts acting in odd ways: violently attacking each other, biting each other, dying, and then – to top it off – reanimating and starting the whole cycle again. It takes mere seconds for a bitten human to go from, say, Steelers-fan-Harley-owner-gulten-intolerant-fisherman to Mr. Teethy McChompington trying to gnaw your personhood. From one famished zombie grows a crowd of hungry hungry hombres until the sheer numbers of crazed newly-turned overwhelm a city like a tidal wave.

Just as soon as Gerry hacks, shoots, and wrestles his family to a helicopter that takes them to the safety of a ship, the world calls him back into action. He is a UN investigator of some sort. For reasons that remain unclear, besides that he’s Brad Pitt, he is the only one who can figure out the mystery of the zombie infection and find a key to help humanity fight back.

To find that key, he has to go to a lot of nasty places with a lot of quite crabby corpses who would appreciate it if Gerry would just stop fighting and get eaten and infected already. First, he’s off to supposed Ground Zero, in Korea. Then to the amazingly walled and protected Israel, then to, well, you get the idea. Things are bad everywhere.

And things pretty much look the same everywhere: Dark and twisty with nasty things jumping out at you just when you most expect it. The advantage of being a major movie is the scope: Thousands of CGI zombies scaling walls, zombies crawling over each other to make undead ladders that reach helicopters, zombies crashing through narrow streets like a flash flood.

It’s a bit overwhelming at times.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t see a lot of this movie. I had my eyes closed or my head turned. Some of it I saw from between my fingers. This is because I’m the world’s worst horror reviewer. Everything scares me.

But I did catch enough to see that the plot really makes no sense. Based on the novel by Max Brooks, the movie necessarily deviates from its structure. The novel is set after the zombie wars, an account by researchers to figure out what happened in diverse places with diverse resources and problems. There are a lot of characters and a lot of divergent storylines.

This movie is pretty much Brad and his stringy hair (sorry…fan of Brad but not of this haircut) versus zombies. If anything, Brad Pitt is too highpowered for the role, making us totally believe his family man, hero of humanity shtick. If it were someone lesser in the role, the movie wouldn’t make it, but he pulls it off, nonsensical plot and all.

To recap: Zombies bad, Brad good.


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  • Susan_G1

    Good review. I love horror flicks. This wasn’t one of them. Toooooo much CGI, supercharged zombies (faster that humans), instant infection. Silly. I fell asleep during the movie. I missed nothing.