How to fight the Zombie Apocalypse?
Israel builds walls. North Korea yanks teeth. Somewhere in the Middle East, a nuke explodes.
America recruits Brad Pitt. Smart move.
Director Marc Forster’s “World War Z” is a throwback to the full-throttle horror films of the 1970s, posing its zombie what-ifs with the same realism summoned to imagine what might happen if a Georgetown girl met the devil.
Early on, Pitt, as a former United Nations investigator turned stay-at-home dad, sits in a car with the wife and kids on a jammed Philadelphia street.
Within moments, “WWZ” explodes in urban panic (and cinematic panache) as thrilling as anything we’re likely to see this blockbuster season.
Loosely adapted by, among others, Damon Lindelof (“Lost”) and Max Brooks (son of Mel) from the latter’s bestselling 2006 faux oral history, “WWZ” sends Pitt’s Gerry Lane on a global hunt to find the source of a virus that’s turns humans into howling, convulsive, flesh-chomping ghouls.
Recruited by his old U.N. boss (Fana Mokoena) to join the battle (Gerry’s qualifications, other than being Brad Pitt, are hazy), Lane leaves his wife (Mireille Enos, AMC’s “The Killing”) and two daughters for the world’s undead hot zones.
A series of set pieces follows, some better than others, with hoards of snarling zombies stampeding Jerusalem, a U.S. military base in North Korea, and, in the most horrific scene, an airborne jetliner (word to the wise: pay for that upgrade).
Finally, at an isolated medical facility in Wales, Lane and a small staff of brainy researchers plot to infiltrate a closed-off, zombie-infiltrated wing of the building, where deadly viruses and bacteria -- and a possible vaccine -- are stored.
This troubled, extended final segment -- re-shoots reportedly were a cause of the film’s six-month delay -- scales back the massively populated chaos, recalling, if not matching, the tense isolation of John Carpenter’s “The Thing.”
After the earlier CGI spectacles, the quieter finale can’t help but seem a bit of a let-down.
Pitt, thankfully, isn’t. He’s vulnerable as the family man (Enos gets to do little more than fret), and credible as the world’s possible savior.
The director uses his large cast well, keeping many around just long enough to leave a good impression. To name just two: James Badge Dale as a gung-ho Navy Seal and Daniella Kertesz as an Israeli soldier.
“World War Z,” from Paramount Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: ***1/2 (Evans)
Near the beginning of “The Attack,” a suicide bomber strikes at a Tel Aviv restaurant. We see the carnage -- graphically --through the eyes of Amin (Ali Suliman), an E.R. surgeon.
Amin is an assimilated Palestinian, loved and honored by his Jewish friends and colleagues. That night, he learns that the police have identified a suspect in the massacre: his wife.
Brutally interrogated by Israeli security forces, he refuses to accept her guilt and sets out to learn the truth. Eventually he travels to Nablus, in the West Bank.
Working from a novel by Yasmina Khadra, the Lebanese director, Ziad Doueiri, remains carefully if not coldly neutral.
He looks unsparingly at everyone: fanatical, hate-crazed Palestinians; Israelis whose ruthlessness has made life in the Occupied Territories hell; and, not least, Israeli liberals whose eyes turn icy as soon as they suspect Amin of harboring any sympathy for the enemy.
This is not a soft-hearted movie offering quiet hope. Despite -- or perhaps because of -- its refusal to take sides, the Arab League has called for a boycott against it, and it has been banned in Lebanon and other Arab countries.
“The Attack,” from Cohen Media Group, is playing in New York and Washington, D.C. Rating: *** (Seligman)
(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)
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