Househusband Brad Pitt is driving his wife (Mireille Enos, from "The Killing") and daughters across town, but there's trouble brewing down the road. And, just like that, here we go: Fleet-footed, crazy-faced zombies are rampaging through the streets, biting people and turning their victims into near-instant zombies themselves.
The planet's being overrun with zekes -- movie slang for the undead -- and Pitt's character is called back into service to help the U.N. fight the onslaught. I'm a little vague on what his job description is, but he appears to be an expert in very bad situations.
The present situation leads him to a U.S. base in South Korea and then to Jerusalem, for two big-scale action sequences that work like gangbusters.
Pitt keeps flying from place to place (the takeoffs and landings are the stuff of zombie nightmare) and eventually fetches up in Wales, where a convenient laboratory might hold a clue.
After the grandness of the first 90 minutes, the last section is appealingly small-scale. It's a major change from the first cut of the movie, an action-based finale that was scrapped and re-shot. (The original novel by Max Brooks is a mere jumping-off point for the screen story.)
The movie's rhythm is effective. Director Marc Forster, who bungled much of the action stuff in the 007 "Quantum of Solace," sets up a headlong pace and really goes for it.
Small character bits are punched in (Daniella Kertesz as a tough Israeli soldier, David Morse as an imprisoned agent), make their mark, and then the movie keeps hurtling along.
Pitt has no real character to play, although the film is at pains to remind us of his family-man concern. The actor lends his movie-star presence, which is all that is necessary here: He carries the picture without having a character to play, because he's Brad Pitt.
"World War Z" is rated PG-13, an absurd box-office decision that robs the film of some of its (figurative and literal) guts. It means that you won't see a whole lotta gore, even if hundreds are slaughtered.
There's a last-minute attempt to remind the audience that there could be some sequels to this thing, but it doesn't come off. Sequels or not, "World War Z" is contained within itself, and it's good enough that way. Let's just hope the zombie apocalypse is contained, too.
"World War Z" (3 stars)
The zombie apocalypse rains down on Brad Pitt, who globe-trots to find a way to fight back. The film's got a headlong pace and a couple of super-sized action pieces, and there certainly isn't much time wasted on nonessentials: This is an effective, straight-ahead war film.
Rated: PG-13 for violence, subject matter.
Showing: Alderwood 7, Cinebarre, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Meridian, Sundance, Woodinville, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor.
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