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World War Z
★★★★☆
First run Theater cinema

At last, a decent summer blockbuster. Better than decent, World War Z is an exciting, well-crafted thriller in one of my all time least favorite genres: the zombie-apocalypse picture. Apart from the original George Romero Living Dead films, I get little pleasure in movies about zombies--especially the modern, fast-running, hyper-zombies as popularized in films like 2002’s 28 Days Later. But World War Z, based on the popular novel by Mel Brooks’ son Max, is almost everything I want a summer action movie to be. While some elements are too ridiculous to take seriously, this movie works because it never violates or makes light of its own internal logic. It utilizes all the exposition and rules set up in the first half to heighten the stakes, the suspense, and the scares in the second half.

Best of all, director Mark Forester (Finding Neverland, The Kite Runner, Quantum of Solace) and the writers buck the current trend of creating endless scenes of buildings being reduced to rubble in 10 to 30 minute sequences of computer generated explosions and meaningless digital character battles. Unlike last year’s The Avengers or this year’s Man of Steel, we get to watch genuine action with real stakes and tangible peril, rather than a bunch of cities falling down--and this is movie about an Apocalypse! Little things like death, the consequences of the characters' actions and the laws of physics actually seem to matter in this movie (well…maybe not all the laws of physics, but most of them.) The tense and quiet final act is the real surprise. Even though I don’t connect to zombie material, I was invested enough in Brad Pitt’s character and mission that I found myself almost jumping out of my seat on more than one occasion, which rarely happens to me anymore. It is refreshing to watch a summer action movie that can affect me like they did when I was a kid!

Fans of Brooks' novel may be disappointed that almost non of his memorable characters are in the film and there is very little of his clever geopolitical social commentary, but I think it would have been impossible to translate the things that make the book so great into a feature-length movie. The novel is about the oral tradition and contemplative characters looking back on past events, while the film is an exciting spectacle where we watch characters living through present-day events. World War Z exists beautifully in both forms and capitalizes on the strengths of each specific medium. I'm so pleased to have I finally found a piece of zombie pop-culture (both the novel and the film) that I can fully embrace!

Directed by Marc Forster
Produced by Ian Bryce, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, and Brad Pitt

Screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, and Damon Lindelof
Screen Story by Matthew Michael Carnahan and J. Michael Straczynski
Based on the novel by Max Brooks

With: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Ludi Boeken, Matthew Fox, Fana Mokoena, David Morse, Elyes Gabel, Peter Capaldi, Pierfrancesco Favino, Ruth Negga, and Moritz Bleibtreu

Cinematography: Ben Seresin and Robert Richardson
Editing: Roger Barton and Matt Chesse
Music: Marco Beltrami

Runtime: 116 min
Release Date: 21 June 2013
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1
Color