Because this new century has given birth to a startling number of grade-A zombie flicks, it's only natural to worry that such familiarity will reduce World War Z to the level of a World War Zzzzz. That's not the case, thanks largely to a committed performance by Brad Pitt and a handful of exciting sequences nicely staged by director Marc Forster. At the same time, it might be time to call for a moratorium on undead activities, as the tire thread on this particular genre might be growing thin.
Based on the novel by Max Brooks, WWZ is set in a near-future in which a virus has been turning people into zombies. Worse, those people are turning other people into zombies, via the standard bite on the body. North Korea is reported to have taken care of the problem by removing the teeth of all its citizens, but the rest of the world's population, perhaps not quite ready to give up those dental benefits, is having to deal with the crisis head on.
Gerry Lane (Pitt), a former United Nations hotshot known for his ability to deal with tough situations, is brought back into the loop to find some way to handle the crisis. His brainstorm: If he can locate the source of the first outbreak, he might be able to discover its cause and prepare an antidote. And so it's off on a global excursion for Gerry, as he heads to South Korea, Jerusalem and Wales (Forster previously directed the 007 entry Quantum of Solace, so he was probably happy to rack up more Frequent Flyer miles). At every stop, he has to search for clues while evading zombies who seem fit enough for the 100-mile dash.
Imagine Steven Soderbergh's Contagion recast with zombies instead of Gwyneth Paltrow, and that's largely what you get with World War Z. Gerry's mystery tour isn't particularly compelling, the characters of his wife (Mireille Enos) and daughters could have been jettisoned (I say that only because after establishing them early on, the filmmakers have no idea what to do with them), and the CGI-saturated segments in which hordes of zombies run down the streets or climb over walls are too impersonal to stir much emotion. But the up-close-and-personal sequences - particularly one set aboard an airplane and another inside a World Health Organization facility - are expertly presented, and they prove that there's still some life left in this genre ... if just barely.