"}
Film

World War Z

Brad Pitt will save us all

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Destruction is scary, but not half as scary as the act of rebuilding, the moment of looking at the random, jagged pieces you’ve got left and wondering how the hell you’re going to fit them together. In Marc Forster’s World War Z, the world as we know it—or even as we don’t really know it—is destroyed by a virus that turns people into zombies. Within 12 seconds of being bitten by an infected host, any human will turn into a twisted, soulless creature with cloudy, heroin-addict eyes, motivated only by a ravenous need to hunt down and tear into healthy flesh. Brad Pitt plays a New York City family man—a U.N. peacekeeper turned househusband, if you can imagine such a thing—who strives to protect his family from these fearsome drones, at first by sticking close but later by leaving them. The best way to save them, he realizes, is to serve the greater good and find the source of the killer virus.

It’s all pretty noble, and if nothing else, World War Z shows off some horrifically effective filmmaking: An early sequence, in which Pitt’s Gerry figures out something has gone terribly wrong as he’s driving his wife (Mireille Enos, of Big Love and The Killing) and two generically adorable daughters from here to there in Manhattan, is that rare evocation of chaos that isn’t chaotic itself. Shot and edited with chilling clarity, it shows us vehicles colliding in seconds that feel like eons, or vice versa; metal crumples like paper and glass shatters as if invested with demonic life.

But Forster’s meticulousness—coupled with ample excuses to blow stuff up—isn’t enough to turn World War Z into one of those class-A end-of-everything movies that leaves you feeling just a little bit queasy, momentarily uncertain of your own small place in this unmanageable world. The picture is suitably solemn, but it’s never mournful, at least not in the manner of, say, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s 28 Weeks Later, the superb follow-up to Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. Maybe that’s because 28 Weeks Later isn’t about a world being destroyed but one that’s trying to start back up and just can’t. Fresnadillo’s film rings instead with a terrifying yet vaguely cozy end-of-the-world feeling, a vibe straight out of John Wyndham’s half-disconsolate, half-optimistic ‘50s apocalyptic novel Day of the Triffids.

That kind of subtlety is probably too much to expect from World War Z. This is massive-scale 3D filmmaking, and in that context, some of it works like gangbusters. Early in the movie, Gerry’s family finds both terror and small acts of kindness in a Newark supermarket-turned-free-for-all; Forster films the sequence so we feel the weight and meaning of both the horror and the humanity. And the human-to-zombie transformation itself is pretty scary, beginning with a clattery death twitch and ending with a superhuman surge that launches the newly zombified individual into action. (These are fast zombies, not the slow kind, and you really want to be able to outrun them.)

The picture tangles with some potentially fascinating geopolitical ideas, too. Most of the world was unprepared for this disastrous zombie invasion, but Israel saw the whole thing coming and built a giant wall around the city of Jerusalem to keep the angry, mindless critters out. Lest you think this is an anti-Semitic gag along the lines of those nutso “Jewish leaders sent a memo out on the morning of 9/11 to tell all Jews to stay home from work that day” theories, note the twist: The wall was built only to keep zombies out; healthy humans are welcome to enter, a marked contrast from the way Gerry’s employer, the U.S. government, treats its own citizens during the crisis.

But World War Z doesn’t really know what to do with those larger philosophical ideas. Forster moves the action forward deftly scene by scene, yet the movie ends up feeling sprawling and empty, a “zombies invaded the world and all I got was a lousy T-shirt” enterprise. In fact, World War Z may be an object lesson in the importance of paying attention to small-scale filmmaking within the framework of big-budget wizardry. Because in the end, all that matters in World War Z is Brad Pitt.

Pitt was at one time the sexiest man alive, or something like that. But he has evolved into an actor who’s always worth watching, having turned casualness into a discernible, potent style. In World War Z, he’s a deeply comforting presence, the dad who promises to take care of everything—everything!—and actually manages to do so. I can think of few contemporary actors, sex symbols or otherwise, who have played fathers—particularly fathers of daughters—without veering into sentimental quicksand. When Gerry decides to go out virus-hunting, leaving his family in the allegedly safe hands of the U.S. military, he kisses one of his little girls goodbye, bringing as much relaxed grace to the gesture as any anxious, zombie-fearing father could. He calls her “baby doll,” a nickname she says she doesn’t like—she’s not a baby. Quick on his feet, he comes back with the right response: “OK, tall, beautiful, tiny adult.” Those are the words he leaves her with before going off to save the world. Zombies are no match for a man who knows just what to say to a little girl.

SVCR-0604_GritsGlamour_770x150-CW
More Film...
Hell or High Water
Making them like they used to

Oh, they do not make heartland crime dramas like they did back in the ’70s—smart, ornery, low of budget and high of attitude. Steeped in seedy characters and lousy luck. Above all lacking in the least amount of body fat, moral or cinematic.

Two-Lane Blacktop, Vanishing Point, Badlands.

more »
Florence Foster Jenkins
The flat lady sings

Perhaps she was a tragic figure, or a clinical case worthy of Oliver Sacks, or the incarnation of a dishonest middlebrow culture. But in the end, Stephen Frears’s enjoyable, sentimental movie turns this bizarre real-life figure into a version of Eddie the Eagle, swooping and crashing…

more »
Sausage Party
Kids need not apply

For those of you who have ever envisioned Seth Rogen reconstituted as an anthropomorphic processed meat product—and you know who you are—Sausage Party may be savored as, if not a dream come true, then a drug-fueled hallucination without the potentially harmful side effects. A madcap crazy…

more »
Events
Today
Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Wednesday Market

12:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Brewers Cruise

6:00pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Music at Maritime

6:00pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

The Gun Show

8:00pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Swinomish 2016 Artifacts Wine Bar
Tomorrow
Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

5Point Adventure Film Festival

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Bow Little Market

1:00pm|Belfast Feed Store

Garden Dedication

3:00pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Blues, Brews & BBQ

5:00pm|Hotel Bellwether

Vintner Dinner

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Riverwalk Summer Concert Series

6:00pm|Riverwalk Park

Move to Amend

6:00pm|Mount Vernon

Fiction Writing Group

6:00pm|Village Books,

Elizabeth Park Concert Series

6:00pm|Elizabeth Park

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

Northwood Steak and Crab Artifacts Wine Bar
Friday
Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

5Point Adventure Film Festival

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

What's Next?

9:00am|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Wild Things

9:30am|Lake Padden

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Ferndale Farmers Market

1:00pm|Cherry Street

Barbecues and Beach Parties

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Ferndale Street Festival

6:00pm|Downtown Ferndale

Summer Concert Series Finale

6:00pm|Seafarers Park

Art Party

6:00pm|Tillie Lace Gallery

Farm Tunes

6:00pm|BelleWood Acres

Final Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Historic Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham

Final Dancing on the Green

7:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Wine and Music

7:00pm|Artifacts Cafe and Wine Bar

A Little Night Music

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Doubles

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Artifacts Wine Bar Northwood Steak and Crab Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Swinomish 2016 Village Books Andrew Subin 5 Point Film Festival