When an epidemic known as ‘African Rabies’ begins to spread, turning the living into the living dead, cities fall and the world begins to crumble under the horror. Former UN employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family are right in the thick of it as their home city Philadelphia is taken over by a horde of the undead. Seeking refuge, Gerry gets a call from an old friend and Deputy Secretary-General, Thierry (Fana Mokoena) and in order to provide safety for his family, Gerry is enlisted to find a cure.
With the fate of the world in his hands, Gerry travels to Israel where they have developed a safe zone – perhaps they knew what was about to happen? When he gets there, the city isn’t as protected as it seems, but Gerry sees something that gives him an idea, a way out, and if that’s what Gerry can find, he might have found the cure.
Based on the book by Max Brooks you’d be forgiven for wondering what the two mediums share other than a title. The stories recanted in the novel zip from location to location and tells horrific tales of the zombie invasion taking over the populous. The movie sees the fate of the world in the hands of Brad Pitt and whilst he’s never at home, we hardly see much of the world.
What we do get is a summer blockbuster that features zombies, usually reserved for low budget horrors, as the main antagonist. As a result of this, we get a horror movie that doesn’t really give us much horror. The film is certainly intense in places, but it lacks the gore, guts and brains that a zombie movie craves so badly.
The undead certainly move at pace, unlike the zombies we’re used to. They jerk and screech like they’re being pulled through cactus fields by their ear-lobes. But despite the Israel attack, they’re not really shown on screen. The opening desolation of Philadelphia is handled well and the fear grows with the tension of not knowing what’s going on. That fades as we reach what should be the crescendo of the movie, instead of topping what came before, we get a tense standoff in a research facility.
Whilst this certainly changes the zombie movie dynamic, it doesn’t deliver what the title promised. We didn’t see much of the world, there wasn’t a great deal of war or zombies feasting on human flesh. The performances are mostly forgettable outside of Brad Pitt and its unlikely we’ve seen the last of it. The final line in the film sets up the possibility for a sequel where hopefully they can put right the wrongs that just stop this movie from being really special.
We get some extremely tense scenes and there are some great ideas – although there was always something extra needed. Even if it was just Samuel L. Jackson to exclaim that “I have had it with these motherfucking zombies on this motherfucking plane!”