Fast and Furious
There was a particularly suspenseful scene in “World War Z” that ended favorably to the protagonists, led by Gerry Lane. When it ended, there was a felt collective sigh among the audience in the cinema, followed by some nervous laughter. That, somehow, captured my entire experience of watching this latest addition to the zombie genre.
I decided to watch “World War Z” in spite of hearing from at least a couple of people who didn’t like it, commenting that the ending was flat and corny and that things moved at too brisk a pace to get a hold of the story. In addition, I also read about the ‘troubles’ that the film crew got into while making the film: the revolving door of scriptwriters, the thing with the Hungarian government over prop guns, the 7-week re-shoots, and the long delay of showing, among others. But I wanted the film to work. I love the genre, in almost all of its iterations. So with bated breath, inside the cinema I went.
For a film that was based on a book that told its story through a handful of second-hand information (like Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and Stephen King’s “Carrie”), the narrative in the film is straight-forward and linear. It wastes no time in getting Gerry–played with consistent gravitas by Brad Pitt, into the fray. Their journey from the chaos of Philadelphia and New Jersey to the ship stationed off the eastern seaboard of the US is both tense and harrowing. When they get to the ship, Gerry is practically black-mailed to go on a mission to track the origin of the pandemic.
From here Gerry transits from one action set-piece to the next, as he follows each lead in locales like South Korea, Israel, and Wales. Each arrival and departure is marked by escalating suspense and destruction that leaves one in awe of the power of chaos. The sequence showing the fall of Jerusalem was spectacular. The CG zombies here look much better than the wretched creatures of “I Am Legend” and they really move like rabid and frenzied animals. The zombies here make the zombies in “28 Days Later” and the 2010 “Dawn of the Dead” look lethargic by comparison. Hence the title of this review. And their sheer number makes them appear like a deadly wave–kind of like the zombies in the iPhone game “Zombie Tsunami” minus the cute-ness.
The audience never really gets a chance to look closely at the zombies. Aside from Gerry’s first witnessing a bitten man turn in Philadelphia, the next time we see them upclose is at the WHO facility in Wales. The clicking of the teeth was creepy and funny and un-settling, to say the least.
Gerry is soon rewarded with the discovery that will change the way the world can respond to the pandemic. It is not a cure, but it gives them hope in eliminating the zombies and in rescuing the stranded. The pathology in the film is not the same as in the book, perhaps to fuel the pace of the plot and make the proceedings more dramatic. The comparison to rabies is quite accurate, except for the incubation period, which is about 12 seconds. The film also seems to eschews the epidemiological response described in the book, but this is just consistent with the pathology. I mean, when you have only moments between infection and manifestation of symptoms, an epidemiological response is indeed too slow.
The film ends in an open note. And I just learned that the producers’ intention was to make a trilogy, so the ending just seems appropriate. There are other stories to be told: the origins of the virus, why Gerry quit the UN in the first place, and so on. But for now, Gerry is happily reunited with his family, one battle has been won, but the war continues. Tense and harrowing, very entertaining. Will look forward to the sequel.