World War Z (15/PG-13, 116 mins)
Director: Marc Forster
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
It was almost two years ago now that the centre of Glasgow was taken over by Hollywood, as George Square and the surrounding streets were transformed into Philadelphia for Brad Pitt’s zombie-apocalypse epic World War Z.
Since then rewrites and reshoots have tarnished its reputation somewhat, to the extent that serious questions are being asked about the wisdom of spending $170m on a zombie movie, a genre that flourished in low budget, almost underground circles.
As it turns out it’s neither disaster nor total triumph, but a solidly put together thriller with plenty of entertaining scenes. And while Glasgow isn’t exactly blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, if you miss the first ten minutes, you’ll miss Glasgow.
It’s where we meet Pitt, his wife and two young daughters, stuck in Philly traffic. We’ve been hearing news reports of trouble around the world and disease outbreaks, when suddenly all hell breaks loose around them. There’s panic in the streets and people attacking each other, attacks that are close up and frantically edited to the point of confusion, compensated for by their intensity, with the sense of fear and danger real enough.
Barely escaping with their lives, the family makes it to an aircraft carrier, where it’s soon revealed that they're in the middle of a worldwide zombie infestation. Zombification is almost instantaneous, the walking dead are fast, savage and abundant, and the sustained threat in the early stages is palpable.
As a former United Nations investigator, Pitt is needed to go back into the mix with a scientist to try to find a cure or a way to stop the outbreak. This takes us to Korea for a gloomy and hard to follow sequence that’s just a stepping stone to get us to Israel.
Based on a novel by Max Brooks, World War Z is a reasonably original take on the zombie movie, focussing on the people actively fighting against the hordes, rather than just trying to survive or avoid them. There are some thrills, some tension, and a lot of impressive sights, though Pitt's family become something of an afterthought once they're separated, so emotional investment is limited.
He makes very interesting films, but this is only time outwith Troy that Pitt has been the solo anchor of a summer blockbuster. He’s fine in the lead, neither out of his depth nor particularly dynamic. His character is not a man of action, instead using his smarts to pick up clues, and this is a refreshing change.