World War Z

First, the good news: World War Z is an exciting, suspenseful zombie/end of the world movie. If you just want some thrills and a compelling enough mystery – what is turning billions of people into zombies, and how can we stop it before it kills us all? – then you'll have a good time.

Otherwise, it may be hard to divorce your enjoyment of the film from the well-publicized script problems, reshoots, and budget overruns that World War Z went through during production. But even if you never heard about any of this – hell, I know someone who went into the film not knowing that it was about zombies! – you may still get a sense that the story was seriously tinkered with.

Without spoiling anything, I'll put it this way: World War Z starts with a bang and ends with kind of a whimper. It's easy to sense that the claustrophobic third act – although it makes perfect sense in terms of story, and is enjoyable on its own – was not what the filmmakers originally had in mind. At the end, I was expecting at least a good 15 minutes of large-scale denouement to wrap things up. Instead, the story scurries to a close: "Well, that's it, that's our movie. Thanks folks, good night." It's really abrupt.

Brad Pitt plays a former UN fixer (they never exactly reveal his job title) tasked by the remaining powers-that-be to fly around the world and find a cure for the zombie virus that makes a bitten victim "turn" in just 12 seconds. (This viral spin on the old zombie tropes plays out nicely; these ghouls don't want to eat your brain, they just want to propagate.) He occasionally enlists the help of a minor player, but mostly it's a one man show – quite a departure from the source material, a novel by Max Brooks (son of Mel) that recounts the individual experiences of a number of survivors.

Pitt is adequate, but his character is generic. I actually kind of like this simplicity, as it plays up the pulpy B-movie qualities of World War Z. Unfortunately, however, I think the actor/producer and the rest of the (quite good) cast and crew were sincerely aiming for an epic. Oh well. The loss of scope is no great sacrifice. After all, this is a zombie invasion we're talking about, not the Holocaust.

Squeamish viewers will happily note that, because of its PG-13 rating, this is the least gory zombie movie of all time; anything horrific consistently happens off-camera – almost hilariously so. TV's The Walking Dead is far more violent and disgusting.