Directed by Marc Forster, World War Z evokes the hectic density of modern life; it stirs fears of plague and anarchy, and the feeling that everything is constantly accelerating. At times, it has the tone and the tempo of panic.
I’m not an expert on horror movies, but I know when my heart rate has doubled. “World War Z” explodes right after the opening scenes, in which we see warnings that things are going awry: news reports of feral animals and dead dolphins, roving mobs and rioters—the usual premonitory noise that opens any disaster movie. Gerry Lane (Pitt), a retired United Nations trouble-shooter; his wife, Karin (Mireille Enos); and their two young daughters, driving in the family S.U.V., get stuck in traffic in downtown Philadelphia.
Suddenly, the street erupts: motorcycle cops whizz by, a garbage truck plows through the waiting cars, there’s an explosion up ahead, and people start running, terrified.
The speed and the violence hit you like lightning. Then, gradually, in brief, searing glimpses, you see them: human-looking creatures, with disintegrating flesh and wild eyes, biting and mauling people and causing general mayhem.
These scenes suggest how quickly a major American city can fall into chaos. But what’s causing the behavior? A viral outbreak? At first, no one uses the word “zombie”—it seems too silly.
“World War Z” is the most gratifying action spectacle in years, and one reason for its success is that Pitt doesn’t play a superhero.