World War Z is an apocalyptic horror film directed by Marc Forster from a screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Max Brooks, the son of Mel Brooks. The film stars Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, a retired U.N. employee who must travel the world to find a way to stop the zombie pandemic that is defeating armies and collapsing governments.
Mireille Enos co-stars as Karen Lane, Gerry’s wife and mother of their two children; Fana Mokoena as United Nations Undersecretary Thierry Umutonijiu; James Badge Dale as Captain Speke, U.S. special forces; Matthew Fox as a U.S. Navy SEAL operative; David Morse as Gunter Haffner, a prisoner living in an abandoned jail; Ludi Boeken as Warmbrunn; Abigail Hargrove as Rachel Lane, Gerry and Karen’s elder daughter; Sterling Jerins (who nearly steals the show) as Constance ‘Connie’ Lane, Gerry and Karen’s younger daughter; Daniella Kertesz as a Segen in the Israeli military; and Fabrizio Zacharee Guidoas as Tomas. Additionally, Peter Capaldi, Pierfrancesco Favino, Ruth Negga and Moritz Bleibtreu portray World Health Organization doctors; Ernesto Cantu plays Tomas’ father; David Andrews plays U.S. Navy Captain Mullenaro; Elyes Gabel (Game of Thrones) plays Fassbach; Lucy Aharish plays a young Palestinian woman; and Julia Levy-Boeken plays an Israeli refugee.
The film borrows liberally from The Walking Dead, Lost, War of the Worlds, etc. Speaking of Lost, screenwriter Damon Lindelof was hired to rewrite the film’s third act. However Lindelof, who also reworked Prometheus and co-wrote Star Trek Into Darkness, did not have time to script the new ending and Paramount hired Lindelof’s Lost partner, Drew Z. Goddard. Lindelof explained there were inefficiencies in the script in relation to the shooting, which started before the script was finalized thus making the ending “abrupt and incoherent” and was missing a large chunk of footage. Lindelof presented two options to executives, who ultimately choose to shoot 30 to 40 minutes of additional footage to make a coherent ending. The re-shoots coupled with other overages caused the budget to balloon to around $200 million.
Political compromises also factored in. In March 2013, it was reported that Paramount changed a scene where characters speculate that the zombie outbreak originated in mainland China in hopes of landing a distribution deal in the country. It was also revealed that several of the scenes shot in Budapest were dropped from the final cut in order to water down the film’s political undertones for a more friendly summer blockbuster. It’s rated PG-13 for intense frightening zombie sequences, violence and disturbing images.
In January 2012, director Forster and Paramount said they “each view World War Z as a trilogy that would have the grounded, gun-metal realism of Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne series tethered to the unsettling end-times vibe of AMC’s The Walking Dead.”
World War Z has received generally positive response from film critics. As of June 16, the film holds a 74% approval rating on the review aggregator website, Rotten Tomatoes.