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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - Edition No 907 

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WORLD WAR Z

SYNOPSIS:
United Nations investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself.

Review by Louise Keller:
Brad Pitt, zombies and an all-out assault of chaos, stunts, 3D special effects and a surprisingly good script all resonate in this hero's journey with scale, style and bite. Monster's Ball director Marc Foster deftly tackles the material adapted from the novel by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft), establishing the story's magnitude and relevance from the outset. Like 28 Days Later and Contagion, the film raises a mirror to society as it explores human responses to a deadly epidemic that puts at risk the world as we know it. Pitt reminds us why he is one of the world's biggest stars, grounding the film in which he is perfectly cast as the heroic protagonist who is calm in a crisis, dares to risk it all and reinforces the values of family.

The film immerses us immediately into the action with Pitt as Gerry Lane, the former UN investigator and his family caught in an avalanche of chaos in Philadelphia traffic while zombies crash through windscreens, cars are trampled and everyone is running for dear life. The tedious, frenetic camera work and dark production design accentuate the action and even if you are not sure exactly what is going on, there is one thing that is unmistakable: the sense of panic.

Gerry's mission impossible (which he chooses to accept, to save his wife and children) is to get the deadly zombie virus under control. In the sequences in North Korea and Israel, a cast of CGI-created thousands scramble and scream to the onslaught of jerky, eye-bulging zombies. One vicious bite prompts infection to the count of 12.... 1, 2, 3. Even teeth extraction by the North Koreans and the building of a high wall to keep out the zombies in Israel are not enough.

Things start to heat up on the plane ride to a research facility when a zombie suddenly materialises - from economy class, of course. By then, Gerry has taken dramatic action to save Segen (Daniella Kertesz). I jumped several times in my seat and the scene involving mass evacuation of the aircraft will ensure this film will never be shown as inflight entertainment.

The knuckle-biting moments come at the facility in Wales as the film's best dramatic elements are played out, culminating in Gerry's high-risk Russian roulette involving deadly pathogens and a creepy bunch of zombies who have been wound down to slo-mo state because of a lack of people to infect.

Pitt stands tall throughout, the many close ups of that handsome face countering the enormity of the story's scale and making the story accessible. All the performances are solid and credible with mention to Moritz Bleibtreu as the research facility doctor, while Mireille Enos is an interesting choice as Pitt's screen wife.

At the lavish red carpet Australian Premiere held at Star City which Pitt attended (to mass hysteria), I felt the scale of his popularity grandly echoed and was at one with that of the film.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
When one of the world's biggest stars makes a zombie movie, you know that genre has been upsized. Brad Pitt not only stars in World War Z he also put his producing shoulder to the wheel, and judging by the way he spoke about the effort at the Australian premiere (9/6/2013) it was a labour of love. So who am I to throw sticks and stones of critical words at it? Well, the critic in me, I guess ...

Director Marc Forster stood beside Pitt on stage at Star City, and perhaps my criticisms should be directed at him - first and foremost for the brief he gave cinematographer Ben Seresin. Hey guys, I thought cameras were made so we could see what the hell is going on in a film. For much of the first 90 minutes - when all the freaking zombie action is taking place and the world is in utter chaos - the hand held camera appears to have been held in the hand of someone not paying attention to the action but looking for their lost mobile in a busy Moroccan market. You may as well not bother with the expensive actors and locations ... just shoot a blancmange whizzing in a blender.

The footage ('digital files' doesn't sound right) was then handed to the editors, who, understandably, didn't know what was being shot and cut together a collage of haphazard stuff. The soundies obliged by mixing the sound so most of the dialogue is unintelligible, either drowned out by the M&E track (music & effects) or just garbled.

But it's a zombie movie, after all, so neither the plot nor the characters are too hard to work out. The genre calls for our hero to have a family at risk whom he has to leave behind while he saves the world ... tick. He has to be dragged back from retirement ... tick. He has to risk his life a few times ... tick. But what do we make of the unexplained (and inexplicable) bomb-like explosions, especially the one at the beginning of the film, which is followed by another unexplained (and also inexplicable) phenomenon: the giant truck speeding out of control through gridlocked traffic, like the start of a disaster movie, destroying vehicles by the dozen. Or is all that just a destruction derby to set the scene, utterly gratuitous?

As for Marc Forster (of Quantum of Solace fame) he has to wrangle a CGI team who can make us believe that a million zombies are attacking the giant walls that Israel has built to keep themselves safe, among several other big computer works.

Indeed, the CGI work is exceptional, and it's a testament to advances in this craftform that we almost take it for granted. It is still skilled and creative and painstaking and worthy of celebration as part of the new language of cinema. The zombies, rarely seen until a crucial face to decayed face confrontation, are a streamlined version of zombies we have seen and loathed many times before. But let's not be churlish, they are well made.

And also hats off to Forster for some really classy casting in support roles, notably David Morse as a rogue CIA agent with one helluva scene, plus Moritz Bleibtrau and Peter Capaldi (the foul mouthed spin doctor from In The Loop) as World Health Organisation doctors. Brilliant, unexpected choices.

Bouquets, too, to the writers for an imaginative manipulation of the genre, especially in the dark and interesting resolution - the financiers get it both ways: the film has a gently uplifting ending with a sombre coda. It's a zombie movie .... I just hope Brad Pitt now moves on.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

WORLD WAR Z (M)
(US, 2013)

CAST: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Eric West, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, David Morse, Elyes Gabel, David Andrews, Moritz Bleibtrau, Peter Capaldi

PRODUCER: Brad Pitt, Ian Bryce, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner

DIRECTOR: Marc Forster

SCRIPT: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof (novel by Max Brooks)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ben Seresin

EDITOR: Roger Barton, Matt Chesse

MUSIC: Marco Beltrami

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nigel Phelps

RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 20, 2013







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