.World War Z

Brad Pitt staves off the zombies in 'World War Z.'

HELLO, HOME DEPOT; WE NEED MORE ZOMBIE REPELLENT: Brad Pitt staves off the zombies in ‘World War Z.’

This is the way the world ends—not with a bang but with a chomp. World War Z has a deceptively global scope: Korea is represented as a rainy dark airport; many of the Jerusalem aerial shots are so synthetic it’s like looking at some pastor’s mock-up for Sunday school.

At least Brad Pitt knows who he’s supposed to be in the movie. His character’s name is Gerry Lane, but he’s basically Brad Pitt—a drop-out, a rebel, a former hellhole-inspector for the United Nations. Figuring this film out is work for someone trying to duplicate Mark Twain’s analysis of the literary offenses of James Fennimore Cooper. First, Philadelphia explodes and turns into a zombie volcano. Next, Pitt and his family (wife Mireille Enos, in the year’s most depressing wife role, mothers a pair of interchangeable daughters) escape this urban holocaust and drive right into Newark, strictly to get the kind of asthma inhaler sold all over the state of New Jersey.

Everyone is whisked to an aircraft carrier. Lane, alone at last, is sent to South Korea. The point of the Asian trip is that Lane gets to hear two speeches, one on the bitchiness of Mother Nature and another about how North Korea performed “the greatest act of social engineering in history.”

David Morse plays the Kurtz-like CIA man who apparently went mad reporting this story. Thence to Israel, where it looks like all that wall-building has paid off in zombie-proofing. (“They’ve been building walls there for 2,000 years!” we hear, in case we’re in the mood to complain about Israel’s foreign policy.)

Lane picks up a shell-shocked Israeli Defense Force companion named Segen (Daniella Kertesz) with cropped-hair and pale makeup; they head for a Welsh lab and settle down. Among the concerned scientists: the humane German actor Moritz Bleibtreu, and the lovely, droll Irish actress Ruth Negga. Both are billed as “WHO doctor.” Who, indeed? Who are they?

With its busy effects, fight scenes and antlike swarms of zombies, World War Z isn’t about anything but our stalwartness in the face of zombie attack. Mentions of Earth’s degraded ecology, the horrors of war or the weirdly Crichtonesque monologues about the wanton killing power of nature are ludicrous in the face of this street-maniac’s story. Killing the metaphor, it may also kill off the genre for a few years.

World War Z

PG-13; 116 min.


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