First off, the book by Max Brooks is a piece of exceptional literature. This movie isn’t really that book. There are a couple of grace notes that reminded me of parts of the original, but, really, this is just another variation on the idea of a global zombie war. So, if you worship the book and think making a movie that isn’t a word-for-word translation is a travesty, don’t bother seeing this movie.
Okay, I’ve got that out of the way. How is this as a movie?
Parts of it I loved. The opening sequence, wherein we meet Gerry (Brad Pitt) and his wife (Mireille Enos) and kids (Abigail Hargrove and Sterling Jerins) is as exciting as you can imagine. It feels like a zombie movie. Which is weird, since I’ve read more than one reviewer who likens it to Contagion. No, it’s more like Dawn of the Dead. Fast zombies, lost of chaos, supreme tension.
It’s the following sequences that are more like Contagion, because Gerry is a UN fixer who has been enlisted to help a virologist find the source of the infection, because that’s the only way to find a cure. For some reason, they mentioned that cities with big airports are the hardest hit. Which is stupid. This infection turns a person into a zombie in twelve seconds. (The scene where we learn that is some brilliant film-making.) People can’t carry this infection for the length of a bus ride, let alone a plane ride, without causing disaster. Air travel is not the way this would spread.
The film shifts to South Korea, and while this whole sequence is suspenseful, it’s also all in the dark. I wasn’t too scared. (Also, since the film is rated PG-13, I’m already prepared to not be too horrified by anything that happens.)
The South Korean adventure sends Gerry to Jerusalem, where the Israelis had completed a huge wall around the city long before the outbreak was global news. The scene where the Israeli official explains how that came to be is great. The bulk of the sequence, though, is by the numbers zombie mayhem. It is somewhat original, what with the infected scrambling up a wall on each others’ bodies like an obscene parody of ants. On the other hand, since that image was highlighted in every single trailer and TV spot, I can’t say it was a huge surprise when it happened.
Unfortunately, I knew a little too much about the production of this film going in. I knew that there was an entire Russian sequence that, though it was completed, was cut from the film because it didn’t test well. (Too dark.) So, in the trailer, when the Navy guy says “Moscow is dark,” and when Gerry asks the Israeli guy “How do I get into Russia?” and he answers “Russia is a black hole,” they’re setting us up for something stunning to happen in Russia. Which, of course, doesn’t happen. So the first line is cut, and the second is edited to be about India instead. And Gerry never goes to India, so it feels a little like a loose end, when it’s really all they could do to patch up the story.
There’s a crazy scene on a plane, which was good enough, I suppose, but didn’t really further the story. It just made it harder for Gerry to get where he’s going next: Cardiff.
In Wales, he and an Israeli soldier who’s protecting him, drop in on a World Health Organization office, because Gerry (despite a lack of medical knowledge) has figured out a way to camouflage people from the zombies. Getting this to work out is a tense sort of cat and mouse sequence in a zombie infested medical research facility. In retrospect, it looked a little like some of the scenes in Resident Evil. But with fewer killer lasers.
All in all, I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. Some awesome scenes balance out with some questionable choices that were necessitated by the huge cut of an entire sequence of the film. Hopefully, if they make a sequel, everything will flow a little better.