World War Z (2013)

Rated PG-13. Our ratings: V -6; L -2; S/N -1. Running time: 1 hour 56 min.

But he said, ‘O my Lord, please send someone else.’
Exodus 4:13

Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ Jeremiah 1:6

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, 2‘Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.’ 3But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
Jonah 1:1-3

Gerry and his family caught in the crowd fleeing from zombies.

2013 Paramount Pictures

We might consider this Brad Pitt vehicle as Contagion on steroids. Yes, the “Z” in the title is for zombies—the honchos at Paramount Pictures and their associated companies must have said, “Why should cable and TV networks be the only ones making bushels of bucks on this stupid genre?” They wisely internationalized their film so as to appeal to the world market. Instead of the American government leading the struggle against the zombie plague it is the United Nations and the World Health Organization (W.H.O.).

As the move begins, Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a retired UN troubleshooter, is in his van with his family, stuck in Philadelphia traffic. The unknown holdup turns out to be the first infestation of humans turned zombies attacking and tearing the flesh of victims. Within ten to fifteen seconds the victims are turned into zombies also. These are not your slow, lumbering hulks of the old movies which a child could outrun. These can quickly run down their victims. Gerry, his wife and two young daughters barely escape, finding refuge in the apartment of a Latino family that night.

Eventually Gerry and his loved ones are rescued by a UN helicopter and taken to an naval command ship where his old boss U.N. Deputy Executive Thierry (Fana Mokoena) urges him to join the team that is about to travel to Asia to run down clues on the zombie virus or germ in order to come up with an antidote. Gerry had quit his job so he could spend more time with his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and two daughters, so he is not about to leave them now, not with the end of the civilized world seemingly ahead. This both sets him apart from the endless array of summer comic book super heroes, and reminds people of faith that many Biblical characters were less than heroic at the beginning of their missions—see the above quotes if you skipped them.

Gerry’s reason for accepting the assignment is also family-centered. If he continues to refuse, all of them will be lifted off and set down on the zombie-infested mainland. Only those who are “useful” are allowed to take up precious space on the ship (along with their family members). Soon Gerry is accompanying the team led by a scientist to South Korea, and when that worthy is killed amidst the scramble back onto the plane to escape a zombie attack, Gerry becomes the de facto leader. Their travels take them to Israel where the government has found that its strict border control against Palestinian terrorists works against zombies also—that is it does, until the hundreds of thousands of zombies besieging Jerusalem pile on top of one another, the stack soon reaching the top of the wall allowing entrance to the city. Gerry and the Israeli soldier named Segen (Daniella Kertesz) assigned as his body guard manage to escape the Holy City, but not aboard their intended U.N. plane, but a Soviet airliner. After a horrendous adventure aboard which results in the plane’s crashing somewhere in eastern Europe, Gerry and Segen, whose hand the former has had to amputate to save his life when he had been bitten, survive the crash and wind up at a W.H.O facility where… This is one of the better zombie films that I have seen, although for this reviewer this does not say much—oops, I forgot that I did like Warm Bodies.. The genre certainly has grown through the year, the latest film dwarfing all others in terms of expenses—some $200 million for this one versus $650,000 for George Romero’s’ cult classic Night of the Living God. (And then there is Ed Wood’s 1959 $65,000 Plan 9 From Outer Space, which many critics and fans assert is the “worst movie ever made.” ) I cannot help but wonder how many little films like Frances Ha could have been made with this, were the world a better place.

To his credit director Marc Forster shows just enough flesh biting and blood so that we get the point, and then focuses on the suspense, the scene in the W.H.O. lab complex especially being very tense. There must have been some problems, with so many writers drawn upon for the script, and the unfortunate result is that the tense search for Gerry’s family that we expect after he is reported dead and they are put off the ship never materializes. Such a climax might have added to the humanity of the story.

For Reflection/Discussion

1. Why do you think the zombie genre is so popular? Compare its elements to those of two other horror sub genres—vampire and werewolf.

2. Do you think the lack of humanity of zombies provides viewers with the excuse to enjoy the genre’s extreme violence? After all, how can there be guilt involved in the slaughter of such evil creatures seemingly without any intelligence left?

3. Compare Gerry with the Biblical characters called by God to go on a mission. How does Gerry at last rise to the occasion? What does his act in the W.H.O. lab show about his values?

4. The United Nations official and W.H.O. scientists are shown in a positive way. How does this compare with the views of many Americans concerning the United Nations? How in such a worldwide emergency would multi-national resistance