World War Z moves along at a good clip, has some interesting twists, and occasionally the opportunity for the audience to chuckle and relieve the tension. Although there are a few holes in the plot, after the bumpy road of filming, the finished product is reasonably good. Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane makes a good low-key hero who is willing to take risks, but also comes across with brains and tender feelings toward his family. He is good-hearted, and I had to smile when he picked up another child to be added to the family, just as the actor and wife Angelina Jolie have done in real life.
To the credit of the director Marc Forster and cinematographer Ben Seresin, scenes with hordes of zombies are impressive, with thousands scaling and tumbling over the wall in Jerusalem, and making horrible croaking sounds. We see individuals getting affected and going into writhing spasms on the streets and hanging onto planes as they are taking off. 3D is an advantage in having them hurl out toward the audience so abruptly the audience gasps.
I think there are some clever twists in the hero’s efforts to solve the challenge, drawing on his own observations and those of the scientists, and being more of a detective than a super-hero. Although, after he has done this, some heroics will be required. I noticed that the female actors are given active roles in both the heroics and scientific problem-solving, a welcome change in movies of this type.
I liked the way the film ended. What comes after Z? Grade: B+
You go, Brit Marling! This is intelligent filmmaking at its best. It deals with an important contemporary issue; it packs a dramatic wallop; and production (writing, directing, acting, cinematography, music) is top notch. Plus, it pulls for a range of emotions from start to finish. To me, it was a bit confusing in the beginning (not a drawback, but a strength), when Sarah (Brit Marling) applies for an assignment and is given rapid-fire enigmatic advice and instructions from her boss (Patricia Clarkson). As she starts her infiltration into an activist group, the dangers in her assignment start becoming apparent, and the audience is on board.
As we follow Sarah in doing her job, we get what is probably a realistic picture of the dynamics of an activist group that is committed to social change. They can be appealing in their playfulness, dedicated in their commitment, and in, at times, oddball behavior. Their histories, as they are gradually revealed make their positions understandable. When they are at their most daring, however, it is shocking, and our sympathies are pulled in different directions at once. The legitimate question posed is where the boundaries of activism should lie—something every individual might answer differently.
Brit Marling is a superb actress who occupies seamlessly every character she portrays (as in Another Earth, Arbitrage, The Company You Keep). She keeps her character fresh and genuine and subtly uses her body and voice to help convey the character’s experience. Patricia Clarkson is another fine actress who can be convincing in a wide range of roles. And Ellen Page—the sassy teenager in Juno has easily evolved to be able to play a rather terrifying adult. Alexander Skarsgard is proving himself in consistently fine performances, most recently in The East, What Maisie Knew, Disconnect, and Melancholia. The rest of the cast likewise contribute to the quality of this film.
A major strength of The East is a script by writer/director Zal Batmanflij and co-writer Marling that keeps an audience guessing as to what will happen next, while pulling one’s sense of ethics this way and that. The writers have done a fantastic job in presenting all sides of the tension/dilemma between corporate over-reach and viable ways for conscientious people to respond. Our hearts go out to those who have suffered physical, mental, and property damage as a result of irresponsible corporations who put profit ahead of human welfare. But the response of an eye-for-an-eye/tooth-for-a -tooth is not the answer either. One reason the script is so good is that it offers a reasonable solution at the end. One of the three best movies of the year so far. Grade: A