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Article by Teddy Durgin

'World War Z' Finds Life in the Undead

The troubles with the "World War Z" production have been well documented. The ending had to be re-shot. New scenes had to be added. Some actors' roles were trimmed down to almost nothing (blink and you'll miss Matthew Fox). The director went way over budget ... and I mean like federal government over budget. There were script rewrites and behind-the-scenes quarrels and off-camera power plays. It was chaos, I tell ya! But you know what? I think a little chaos or sometimes even a lot of chaos can actually benefit a film. Have you ever read up on "Gone With the Wind?" Or, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind?" Or "Titanic?" Oh my gosh, those movies had problems out the wazoo. But they ended up being great and beloved motion-picture epics, partly because of their troubled behind-the-scenes woes. Now, "World War Z" is not ever going to be in the same league as those three films. But this is a movie about chaos - a zombie epidemic overtaking the entire planet. And I think the chaos behind the scenes that would end up shaping the structure and flow of this crazed action-horror film is what appealed to me the further I got into this flick. I never knew where this movie was taking me from major sequence to major sequence. I'm not sure the cast and crew knew either. And that kind of volatile unpredictability can be exciting! "World War Z" goes from being an intense family survival drama to a men-on-a-mission story to a flat-out, this-is-war movie to a confined, cat-and-mouse thriller all in the span of two-plus hours. Brad Pitt's character, a former U.N. investigator, is the through line. He's the chief gear shifter, and he delivers a great movie-star performance here. What his character cares about, we care about - whether it's his wife and kids, his country, his quest to find the origins of the zombie virus or ultimately his very survival. It's a disjointed film. No doubt about it. And it's relentlessly paced, leaving little room for character development. But in a summer of gargantuan-scaled superhero movies and sci-fi epics, this movie has the most truly awe-inspiring moments. You know you're in for it right in the first five or 10 minutes. Pitt's lead family of four is stuck in a downtown Philadelphia traffic jam that suddenly turns into a terrifying zombie riot much like the doors opening at a Wal-Mart Black Friday sale. The film then moves to Newark, N.J., under siege and set ablaze that will remind audiences of the epic mass panic and bloodshed of ... well ... most nights on the streets of Newark. But, again, with zombies! And while gorehounds may scoff at the PG-13 rating, I think the numerous cutaways from the more graphic kills actually benefits the psychological trauma this film is aiming for. Your mind imagining the worst is always worse than actually being shown a movie zombie gnawing on human flesh or endless spraying and splattering head shots (the only sure way to kill someone infected). "World War Z" delivers the goods.

"World War Z" is rated PG-13 for action violence, language, and thematic material.

 

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