3 1/2 stars, not so family appropriate:
NOTE: I saw the unrated blu-ray cut of the movie. As I haven't seen the theatrical cut, I cannot compare the two. The extended cut only includes more violence, and doesn't change or add to the story of the movie.
I'm not a zombie fan. Watching the undead eat the flesh of the living has never really brought joy to me. That being said, I was looking forward to World War Z. After the months of production trouble, I was expecting the worst from the movie. Marc Foster already has a poor track-record with action movies, and his directorial decisions were rumored to be part of the production problems. It seems like the movie dug itself into a hole long before it was released. But against a wall of odds, World War Z is actually a very solid movie.
Former UN employee Gerry Lane is living a quiet and secure life with his wife and two daughters. When driving through Philadelphia traffic, all hell breaks loose ... In the form of zombies! Gerry and his family go on a frantic run to find safety. Because of his United Nations connections, Gerry is able to evac his family to an aircraft carrier. In return, he must go back to work for the UN. He is tasked with protecting a brilliant scientist who is on the hunt for a zombie cure.
The story maintains a fairly high level of intelligence throughout. This definitely isn't a mindless action movie. There are interesting twists and turns along the way. Much has been made about the rewritten third act. While I don't think it's as bad as most are painting it to be, it still could have been better. Survival is the main driving force behind most of this movie. It's not a movie about domestic trouble or interpersonal relationships. There is a threat, our hero needs to constantly survive the threat, and then he needs to find a solution to the problem. That's it. I liked the nuts and bolts approach the script has. It does an admirable job showing us a realistic reaction to a zombie outbreak.
Brad Pitt carries the entire load of the movie. Our story completely centers on Gerry. He goes in and out of interaction with other characters. He starts out in danger with his family. He then transitions going on the run with Segen. But these characters clearly play second fiddle to Pitt. He does a terrific job bringing Gerry to life with a minimalist performance. His family is what drives him, giving him a motivation that makes sense. Pitt hasn't done a straight-up action movie in a while, but he hasn't lost a step. He is powerful here.
The supporting cast is filled with solid performances, but none of them stand out. Mireille Enos is probably the best as Gerry's wife Karin. James Badge Dale gives a very short, but very cool performance as Captain Speke.
The movie isn't focused on being a typical "zombie" movie, hence the PG-13 rating. There aren't gallons of blood and hundreds of fake severed limbs flying around. The movie is about suspense and action, not gore.
The best action scene is the very first one. When a zombie outbreak explodes on the streets of Philadelphia, we are treated to a truly terrifying action scene. Gerry and his family are in trouble, and they have no resources, no information, and no place of safety. This is the best action scene, because the threat feels very real. It's also the grittiest of the action scenes, providing for a more realistic feel.
The most massive action set piece is in Israel. This is the big scene that the movie marketed the most. While undeniably cool, it simply isn't as frightening as the first action scene. It's more along the lines of action, and not tension. Still, I'm not complaining about seeing a swarm of zombies climb a wall and take down a helicopter.
The final action scene goes completely in the opposite direction. Instead of action, it is way more on the side of suspense. I'm always happy when a movie chooses to give the audience character driven action as opposed to fireworks and explosions. And that is exactly what World War Z does. It puts Gerry in a nearly impossible situation. His only escape is through cleverness. It's very gripping stuff.
Primarily, the action doesn't simply "blow up the bomb." As the legendary Alfred Hitchcock said (paraphrased), 'Setting off a bomb gives the audience 10 seconds of surprise. Telling an audience that there's a bomb under the table and it's going to go off in 5 minutes draws viewers into 5 minutes of suspense.' And that is exactly what World War Z does, for the most part.
Oh, and fast zombies are much more horrifying than sluggish ones ... I'm just saying.
The rest of the technical aspect of the movie is adequate, if unspectacular. Marc Foster's direction never lets down the story. He may have had dozens of issues during filming and post production, but he still churns out a quality movie. He's probably better at directing dramas like Finding Neverland, but he does a commendable job here.
My main issue with the movie is that the pacing is off. Instead of building to a sensational finish, it keeps losing steam the further it gets along. The movie is still quality all the way through, I just wish it was paced better.
Marco Beltrami provides the musical score. Beltrami has written many a solid score over the past 15 years, but he is largely uninspired here. Supposedly, he had to tone down his score, because it was pushing the movie into R rated territory. The original composition might have been impressive, but his revised effort comes off as dull. And his worse offense is that he uses Hans Zimmer's Inception horn blast ... I'm sure it wasn't Beltrami's idea, but it's still so grating to hear it in score after score.
Over everything else, World War Z is entertaining. It's a globetrotting, fast moving, suspenseful, and enthralling movie that takes risks within the "zombie" genre. And those risks pay off. Without the element of surprise, I don't know how good the sequel will be; but I can assure you that I will be watching.
"Mother nature is a serial killer, no one's better, more creative, but like all serial killers, she can't help the urge to want to get caught." 7.5/10
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing