I must admit, I am not a fan of horror films in general, and zombie films in particular. It's not that I don't appreciate the skill and craft that goes into creating films designed to shock and scare, it's more the subject matter. The idea of these undead, human-like creatures, so mindless and relentless in their determination to hunt down any remaining human, rending them with their rotting teeth, eating living flesh and turning anyone unfortunate enough to survive such attacks into a shambling flesh eater themselves.... Shudder. They give me the creeps; send shivers down my spine, which is exactly the idea, I guess.
Having said that, World War Z is less horror film, and more suspense and mystery, and while the zombies are still hair raisingly terrifying, they are more intent on hunting down their human counterparts with the intention of biting them to pass on the disease, than feeding on living flesh, so the gore factor is lessened, whilst still retaining the scares (which is probably why it passes with an M 15 plus rating, instead of a more restrictive one).
Brad Pitt gives a solid performance as Gerry Lane, a retired UN investigator, who's job took him to some of the worst trouble spots on the globe, investigating war crimes and atrocities. All this is behind him, though; he is now content spending his days looking after his family's needs, where his worst complaint is that the kids don't put their dirty breakfast dishes in the sink.
Fortunately, this picture of domestic bliss is quickly replaced by the unfolding zombie disaster, as the Lane family's ordinary morning commute is replaced by a life and death struggle to escape the zombie horde.
Brad Pitt protecting his family against the Zombie horde
As interesting as is the Lane's struggle to survive amidst the backdrop of crumbling civilization, the film is given much needed direction when Gerry's former boss at the UN, Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena), contacts him, to ask him to come back to work, to help track down the source of the undead virus, and thus help humanity survive the disaster.
However, Gerry is less than enthusiastic about the idea of leaving his family to help get to the bottom of the plague, until Umutoni gently points out that only essential personnel can remain on the UN ships sailing off the eastern coast of the US. Despite the fact that he is essentially using the family as bargaining chips to blackmail Gerry into helping, Umutoni comes across as a sympathetic character, attempting to balance the needs of the individuals under his command, and the needs of humanity.
With his family safely out of the picture, the film is free to follow Gerry on his quest across the planet to try and discover the source, and cure for, the zombie plague.
The background story of the lead character is well thought out: his former occupation makes his ability to discover a solution plausible, in that it relies on the hero's powers of observation, deduction, ingenuity and bravery, rather than the size of his muscles, or his ability to deal out damage with unbelievable weaponry; and the explication itself is surprising, though so elegant in its simplicity, and is rare in the modern action genre.
Of note is Mireille Enos as Karin Lane, who does a good job of portraying the conflict inherent in loving someone who serves his fellow man in dangerous situations: hating that the service takes him away from his family, whilst also being proud of the fact that said service makes such a difference to mankind. And then there is Daniella Kertesz (Segen), the Israeli soldier, saved from the zombies by some quick thinking on the part of Gerry, who then goes on to become one of his best allies in the fight for a cure.
My main complaint with World War Z is the weakness of the ending: I understand that audiences like to see a happy, upbeat end before being released back to their daily routine, and that film studios and producers alike desire open ended conclusions, in order to easily segue into a sequel, should the first film prove successful, but to my mind, it creates forced, wishy washy anti-climaxes, which diminish the impact of the preceding screen time.