Saturday 27 July 2013

Review: Compliance

Year: 2013
Director: Craig Zobel
Screenplay: Craig Zobel
Starring: Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy

Synopsis is here

I’m not surprised that there was a certain amount of anger was aimed at Craig Zobel’s feature; Compliance. Although inspired by true events, the film almost asks you to take a massive leap of faith. I’m sure when many watch the events that took place, many couldn't, nay wouldn't, believe that something similar had taken place in real life. And yet a quick Google of the name Lynndie England would take you to sites talking about the Abu Ghraib torture pictures.

The pictures show England, posing and mocking naked Iraqi prisoners. Her response as to why she posed in those pictures was that she was taking orders from people in higher ranks (she was also in a relationship with one of the officers). Stating that she felt odd posing like she did, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. Compliance plays on the idea that under authority, with the right pressure and stress applied, responsibility diminishes. It’s at that point when bad things happen.

But the film is still incredible hard to take in, but constantly thought provoking. I’m sure there are tons of message boards full of comments from smarter folk who would never do anything like what transpires within the films plot. But then again despite intelligence, one can still be recruited into a cult.

Zobel’s film gets the environment just right. From the very start restaurant manager; Sandra (Ann Dowd), is already under a certain strain. A confrontation with a supplier sets up the day awkwardly and Sandra, a well meaning but unpolished woman is already at odds with the playground politics that take place in retail places such as this ChichWich restaurant. A conversation between relationships neatly shows the differences and conflict between Sandra and Becky (Dreama Walker), the teenage girl who becomes the main victim in the situation.

But everyone becomes victim in a prank which quickly takes advantage of authoritative powers. Zobel’s film may anger people, because it shows how easily and engrained some of our human behaviours are. A female manager hears over the phone; a firm yet relatively friendly male voice proclaiming to be a police officer and quickly she lends responsibility over to the voice. While the conversation continues out back, the restaurant gets busier.  It’s a Friday and places such as this are always busy

The caller at first is vague about the details of his call. Allegedly there’s a theft and someone out front is culpable. But as the conversations wear on, the caller (a despicable Pat Healy) is able to influence the situation further due to fudged facts and background knowledge. The conversations at times feel much like recent bank card scams that have come into play recently.

Zobel’s script cleverly picks up on those small details that we so easily forget, but help the caller gain such an advantage. Healy’s caller character effectively uses cold reading to make it appear that he knows more than he actually does.  The film also uses its surroundings to its advantage. Much like the occurrences the film is based on, the cinematography gives us an on point description of small town U.S.A., a place with less “excitement” and ultimately, less reason to be suspicious of authoritative orders. As the film continues, we see less of anything else. Just faces in concerned close up, with little to console them except that voice on the other line.

Compliance is well performed and neatly observed and a great film to watch to perhaps provide a few moments of water cooler/after dinner chat. I do doubt however that many will feel the need to watch more than once. Most will argue they wouldn't be taken as such a fool and many may not. But Zobel’s film understands the smaller details that make events like this happen.  Nobody believes that they can be made the victim. If that was truly the case films like Compliance would not exist.

Review: The Wolverine

Year: 2013
Director: James Mangold
Screenplay: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Tao Okamoto, Svetlana Khodchenkova

Synopsis is here

We all have our biases, and for me, a Wolverine film with James Mangold was going to be a negative one. Speak to more open minded bloggers and critics and of course the idea of biases is a secret shame that is often shunned. “We must be open to all things!” Some may scream.

We’re not. Our personal afflictions affect us greatly and the idea of the director of the horrible faux fizzy, Charade wannabe; Knight and Day, helming a Wolverine sequel that was to effectively erase the risible “origins” film out of people’s minds was not on my list of things I can’t wait to see at the cinema. Mangold has had a decent past with the likes of Copland, Girl Interrupted and Walk the Line. However the elements that were making up this feature just didn't seem to meld in my head.

But what do you know (more what do I know), The Wolverine manages to be a pretty effective waste of time. I mean that as a terms of endearment. I had more knock around fun with this than some of the “bigger” blockbusters of the year. I think the reasons are simple. The Wolverine doesn’t seem to be invoking any sort of terrorism, or end of the world foolishness. It’s almost as if the film realised the fatigue that has come with the pummelling all these major cities have taken. The Wolverine has its focus on its people (well mutants) and the all the better for it.

Mangold was quick to spout of a very particular list of films that influenced the film, ranging from the likes of Wong Kai Wai’s Chungking Express to Yasujiro Ozu’s Floating Weeds. Mangold’s choices are interesting to say the least, as while the film doesn’t particularly feel like any of the films he mentions, the first two acts of the film didn’t seem to fall into the same typical categories of similar fare. There an interesting use of framing and space, the action that takes place has weight to it (I was a massive fan of the bullet train sequence) and Jackman clearly looks like he’s having more fun than he did previously. It helps that his supporting cast are a bevy of attractive ladies. Both Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto are fashion models rather than actors. But neither embarrass themselves in terms of performance. The chemistry that both women have with Jackman is palatable.

Yet it’s that dastardly third act, which looks to hamper things as the film moves from formidable jaunt to scattershot clusterfuck. Character motivations fly quickly out the window as the film decides to lend itself to typical reveals for reasons that don’t seem to matter anymore. A shame, as there’s more than enough to make this worthwhile. A screenplay tidy up and a better villain (Svetlana Khodchenkova is hammy and out of step with the tone of the film) would have had The Wolverine as a more solid recommendation. It now gets merely a light tip of the hat for convincing my bias that it can easily be mistaken.

Friday 26 July 2013

Review: The World's End

Year: 2013
Director: Edgar Wright
Screenplay: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Starring; Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsden, Martin Freeman, Rosamund Pike

Synopsis is here

I loved The World’s End not just because it features my delightful hometown of High Wycombe*. That was an added bonus. No I loved The World’s End because as a Wright/Pegg/Frost fan, I felt the trio’s final “Cornetto Trilogy” entry may not their most quotable. It is however, their most mature in terms of theme. In terms of getting their man children to grow up, they don’t entirely pack away all their toys. But there’s a clear growth in their writing and craft that stands out throughout this sci-fi pub crawl.

I noticed the intent straight away when we are introduced to our lead character Gary King (Pegg) whose development is even more arrested than 2004’s Shaun. No video games or dead end jobs here. There’s not even a girlfriend who’s sick and tired of his shtick. King honestly believes that his life will not be complete until he and his friends finish what they started nearly twenty years ago. A 12 pint pub crawl around their old hometown haunts. His reluctant friends think otherwise but give him the benefit of the doubt. Upon arriving back however, they realise some humanity threatening differences have occurred.

Wrapped in its sci-fi shell is a film that amusingly illustrates where its characters, creators and core audience are now. Approaching or at the wrong side of 30, The World’s End looks at how these three groups are trying to fit into a changing and ever connected world. Both Shaun and Hot Fuzz (2007) also touched upon this with their love for anti-establishment rebels. However the focus here is sharper. Mostly because King and his crew, like their creators are now a little more lived in. The World’s End is their biggest dig at modern age conformity. King’s friends all married and safe, half realised dreams now monotonous facts and figures. Even today’s chain pubs, which all look the same, get tarred with the same brush. The indictment of this is wry. That this condense, overly plugged in world is strangling the character out of us. Not an original thought, but one happily reconstructed with a keen British eye and endearing love for the sci-fi which came before it.

Wright, Pegg and Frost once again reference the living hell out of the film. We see nods to The Day the World Stood Still (1951), The Stepford Wives (1975), They Live (1988), The Omen (1976) and quite possibly Stakeland (2010). Of course the largest reference is Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, 1978), which is observed not just in the visuals, but the subtext. Like all good sci-fi; The Worlds End is all about humanity, and much like the aforementioned Body Snatchers, The Worlds End broadly tackles discrimination with a knowing wink which only these three could provide.

It's a pity that despite this The World's End is a very "white" film considering of its subject matter. I found it particularly interesting how Gary King, despite being quite an unlikable character is treated against the likes of the council estate hero Moses from Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block. Both fight or humanity’s right to be and their own individualism yet it seem that Gary can easily be brushed off as a lovable rouge despite his shady past. Problematic opening sequence aside, it seemed that John Boyega’s Moses has a larger uphill battle to win an audience over despite Gary’s age and history. Whether this has anything to do with class representation, or the general audience reliability to The World’s End actors/writers would be an interesting subject to delve into. Mostly because I believe Boyega sells the drama and complex nature of Moses better than Pegg does with King. I must also add that Shaun of the Dead’s Kate Ashfield still provides strongest female role of the Cornetto Trilogy, with Rosemound Pike having very little to do. In fact; the lack of Jessica Hynes (actress and writing partner on Wright and Pegg’s Spaced) has now become more noticeable. A Daisy Steiner isn’t needed within the film’s framework, but if I saw one, I would appreciate it. These are however mere observations over outright negative criticisms of the material. It’s hard not to get mad at a film which not only has beautifully choreographed fight sequences (the bathroom scene is inspired), but a film that litters its fight scenes with WWE moves. It’s those touches that endear me to the Trio’s work.
With all this talk, I forgot to add that I actually found the film funny. Choc-full of actual gags (please note all you U.S ad libbers), witty one-liners and an amusing main conceit (End of humanity? Of Course we Brits would be at the pub!) , the film does more to satirise male fears in one scene than all three Hangover movies. I know of one or friends who are quite possibly sick of the sight of Pegg and Frost. I however, still get a kick out of their antics. Pegg; whose has grown to become a star in his own right, often feels a little naked without Frost and it was warming to see the two together with none of the chemistry lost.  
For me; The World’s End is quite simply high calibre action sci-fi with fluid action set pieces and trademark word play that made Pegg and Frost a household name to so many. I doubt this will do anything to turn non fans but those who have been with the trio since spaced should enjoy the final trip into the blood and Ice Cream world.

Sunday 21 July 2013

Review: The Bling Ring

Year: 2013
Director: Sophia Coppola
Screenplay: Sophia Coppola 
Starring: Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Leslie Mann, Taissa Farmiga, Claire Julien, Katie Chang

Synopsis is here:

Sophia Coppola's work is best described as films were nothing happened but something with the personage has defiantly changed. The conflict is often internal and repressed with Coppola often holding a steady distance, rarely condemning or condoning what's on screen. Consider the mistakes that her male characters make in Somewhere and Lost in Translation or how she tackled the controversial reign of Marie Antoinette. Her method often frustrates, as it goes against what many want to see. Particularly when considering the privilege of her subjects.  

The Bling Ring is winding down on the end of its theatrical run and its reception has been mostly favourable but cool (Rotten Tomatoes: 61%, IMDB: 6.4, Metacritic: 66%). It’s not hard to see why. The film is inspired by the story of the Hollywood Hill’s Burglar Bunch A.K.A The Bling Ring. A group of relatively well off white kids who decide to Google the addresses of the rich celebrities they idolise and steal from them.

Sympathy and empathy are difficult to obtain due to the distance once again Coppola sets. There’s a perverse voyeuristic quality that runs through the film as the gang set up each robbery almost dispassionately with the aim to gain more material wealth. Much of the film plays like a detached dream, revealing in the absurdity of the exploits. Scenes show the gang frittering through glossy magazines while draping themselves in stolen wares. One robbery; displayed one long, near static take, shows a vast house from the outside while two of the crew drift from room to room and pilfer indiscriminately.

I gained a large sense of frustration and helplessness at what is looks to be a sign of the times. In the world of The Bling Ring, good and bad are meaningless. We are watching vacuous; well off kids stealing from richer people who often pursue even emptier ideals. These characters say things that only highlight themselves and elevate their own narcissistic lifestyle. It's troublesome to see teens act in the way they do with the girls giving off such a false sense of empathy. But in all honestly look who they are stealing from, and the life that they themselves lead.
Coppola streams the information with running blogs of celebrity's gaining DUIs and the like. Remember that the Paris Hilton brand was originally started by a sex tape? Meanwhile; the likes of Lindsey Lohan are more known for their antics of screen than anything they've done on it these days. Not very celebrity victim deserves the treatment they get, but it’s interesting to see which celebrities the teens gravitate to the most. The lives of The Bling Ring are hinted as just as displaced and troubled as some of their victims. Coppola doesn't judge and merely highlights the links.
It’s been argued that the film lacks any real depth and is as empty as the crimes committed. Yet amusingly; I found the film’s seemingly hollow nature manages to make the film stand out even more as a generational commentary. The devil may care, near psychopathic nature of the ring’s quest for material goods, could have had them working for Enron in a parallel universe. The passivity of the whole affair is equally interesting. We never see a true outside reaction to the affair. Everything is kept inside a bubble. There’s not even a sense of reprieve when it bursts. Perhaps I’m thinking about this too profoundly, but the last moments had me thinking of the bankers that helped crash the economy, Vodaphone and their tax breaks, and of course many other powerful people who have seemingly gained through dubious means in our current financial climate.  

Coppola’s film almost accidentally delivers a microcosm of how those with certain privilege may view the world. What makes the film so engaging is her passive observation of the affair. We observe the girls rhyming along to rap music with little to suggest they understand or care about the lyrics they repeat. The slang they use to each other (cute, chill) is just as passive. The glossy sheen of the magazine is spread liberally all over there life. Leslie Mann’s limited yet funny role as the mother of two girls (one played by an exceedingly provocative Emma Waston) in the gang sums everything up with her circle prayers of a particularly wishy washy overtly liberal religion, using magazine cut outs of famous celebs to illustrate life lessons.

Before the film was released, one of the members of the crew; Alexis Neiers has considered and placed her thoughts on the matter for us all to view. She’s has also considered the film to be trashy and inaccurate. I agree that everything shown may not be the complete truth. However, I don’t believe films to be an exact truth. That said, Alexis’ stark blog post which hopes the film looks into the obsession in celebrity, and a prevailing sickness that has invaded all of us in a particular way is incredibly on point. Alexis also has a twitter following nearing 40,000. Suddenly I feel we've gone full circle and that pop culture will eat itself. I'm often wrong but I honestly think we've gone through the looking glass so hard that it’s shattered.   

Note: I've just read and found a great piece of further reading on the music of the film and white privilege I found to be worth a look. 

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Review: A Field in England

Year: 2013
Director: Ben Wheatley
Screenplay: Amy Jump
Starring:  Reece Shearsmith, Michael Smiley, Julian Barratt, Peter Ferdinando, Richard Glover, Ryan Pope

Synopsis is here

Ben Wheatley is a British director I really admire. A confident filmmaker who enjoys bending genres and challenging the typical ideals that British film often stumbles into. A Field in England; his fourth feature was one of the 2013’s entries I had a large investment in, purely based on the strength of his previous works. Even the idea behind it had me hooked. A black and white, psychedelic nightmare set during the 17th Century is the type of English period drama I’ll happily get behind (do I look like I watch Downton?).

Much of A Field in England’s buzz stemmed more from its multi-platform release structure. The films makers decided upon releasing the film not only in cinemas, but on video on demand and DVD all on the same day. An idea that we’re slowly seeing more of (albeit in alternative forms: see Sodenbergh’s Bubble as an example) but never to this extent with a U.K release.  Questions were raised on whether this had to do with the niche aspect of the film, or if the film industry can really spark a trend towards such releases. Particularly as many have become more drawn to the idea of home viewing since the quality of their film going experience has been on the decline.  

I viewed the film coming back from work; I popped into my local supermarket and gained some credit on the stores very popular point system. For me it was easier for me to view it this way as the cinemas just due to time and travel. I love going to the cinema but I see the benefits.

However, A Field in England’s release structure seems more to be about casting its range as far as possible due to film’s obtrusiveness than starting a trend. The film’s black and white aesthetic is not the only thing that will put more casual viewers off. A Field in England clearly shows maturation of craft and boldness which British cinema needs, but at the expense of losing the connection carefully built from previous films.

The film feels reminiscent of the works of Ingmar Bergman, as well as the likes of Blood on Satan’s Claw (1970) and Witchfinder’s General (1968). The look of Michael Smiley’s O’Neill has shades of Vincent Price’s Matthew Hopkins written all over it. While the unsettling imagery of characters bound by thick rope against their will, is deeply rooted in folk horror. A sense of dread begins to form within the film. Something that the British horror of the 70’s and Wheatley’s own Kill List were much quicker at bring about. The first act often feels more of an exercise of form, than anything else. There is a sense of irony throughout the film as it uses its period setting and cast to cut into very seemingly modern question class and male bonding but none of it feels truly substantial, although Amy Jump does not get enough credit for an often witty script with some wry exchanges placed within it.

Some nice moments are scattered throughout (the tableau style poses, Shearsmith’s phenomenal body language) while more of the outlandish visions begin to seep during the second half with a more unsettling mood coming with it. Yet it all seems a tad too late. The sense of lost futility these men face can be felt by the time the film steps up a gear, but nothing hits as hard as the wedding sequence with Witchfinder General, in which the unfortunate couple of the piece make their own vows within a vandalised church, highlighting the conservative conflict that lies within the folk horror movement (see also The Wicker Man).

So I held my breath embraced the fear and let the Devil in and yet I came out relatively unscathed. Some of A Field in England still tickles me, and there’s good chance I’ll let more of it consume me on a second viewing. I'm not sure however, on whether this is because I brought it on DVD or not.

Friday 12 July 2013

Review: Pacific Rim

Year: 2013
Director: Guillermo del Toro 
Screenplay: Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro 
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day

Synopsis is here:

For me Pacific Rim works because its director,Guillermo del Toro, knows how to economise storytelling. The film rattles along at great speed, but we never lose sight of anything. We feel more to be done to fill in the gaps, and yet throughout, the dynamics between characters are solid, the set pieces never feel extraneous (in fact the detail is often gorgeous) and the absurd story still manages to stay intact. Tropes and iffy dialogue are a plenty, yet the execution of it all side-swipes such issues like an elbow rocket.

For a film that is effectively Robots (Jaegers) smashing the scales off Monsters (Kaiju) it sweats out reference out of every orifice. Anime fans may mention Evangelion, Sci-fi fans can spy Godzilla. Gamers could smile at the Shadow of the Colossus feel, while guys like me may very well find themselves transported back when they first watched (and fell in love with) Independence Day (aged 12). The wealth of pop culture that seeps through scene after scene I found astonishing.

But its how all these references are stitched together which I found so appealing. The template is telling. Yet the beauty of the visuals, the spunk and energy of the performances and the boisterous thuds and clunks of mecha on flesh held my interest. Del Toro’s strength here is in taking a platter of well known aspects and rearranging them to feel fun again. The action loses the hyper active editing; we can see what’s happening. The length of the film is much shorter than some of the more hyped movies released besides it. It simply says what it needs to and doesn’t push for time to give the pretence of “epic” storytelling. The film feels big on its own regard, because of the films eye meltingly gorgeous design.

But while I found the look of the film often breath-taking (it ranks with Avatar for me as some of the best CGI), the actors that helped me suck up some air and kept me fighting the good fight. Charlie Hunnam gives an earnest display as Relight Beckett. Idris Elba channels Richard Crenna in First Blood and chomps at scenery.  Rinko Kikuchi bypasses some of the issues that have kept some of the other female characters from being anything interesting (thank god for the screenplay giving a damn). Meanwhile Charlie Day’s performance is not only welcomed by the fact that I’ve been binging on It’s always Sunny in Philadelphia, but by giving a performance that strangely reminds me of Rick Morris in Ghostbusters. That can only be a pleasant thing.

But Pacific Rim is full of such pleasant things and I don’t need my blockbusters to reinvent wheels when released (say that three times). But I do want that sense of fun that can be found. Pacific Rim doesn’t feature the comic book anxieties and origin stories that have almost become a mainstay during the summer period. It also doesn’t rely on name brand nostalgia to make an appearance of being decent. There’s none of the grubby “humour” that litters the likes of Transformers and thank goodness. Del Toro’s ability to see his blockbuster ideas through the prism of a small kid is important here. Pacific Rim manages to capture some of that imaginative feeling before cynicism set in. All Transformers seemed willing to give you is Megan Fox giving you a blank stare and a humping Robot.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Podcast: Cinematic Dramatic 5x03 - Chap of Steel

The Dramatics finally take to the sky with Superman in Man of Steel, find out how bad World War Z could possibly be and debate aftershave adverts. Don't ask why. But stay after the end for more Man of Steel discussions (or frustrations).

via GeekPlanetOnline: Cinematic Dramatic Unfortunately, you will have to copy and paste the link to listen or use the handy links on the side!

Sunday 7 July 2013

Review: The East

Year: 2013
Director:  Zal Batmanglij
Screenplay: Brit Marling
Starring: Brit Marling, Patricia Clarkson, Ellen Page, Alexander Skarsgard

Synopsis is here:

A plethora of movies appeared over this weekend; with many either enjoyed the sunshine, the sport or went to one of the more major players. I found myself instead, slinking away to catch the one Friday performance of “small-time” thriller; The East, playing at my local Cineplex. This eco-thriller is the latest project from the combination of writer/actress Brit Marling and director Zal Batmanglij and it shows a distinct maturity from their last feature The Sound of my Voice.

Where The Sound of My Voice, only really grasped me with Marlings sensual performance, The East is a little stronger with its secondary character’s dynamics. With Marling as lead and stronger actors such as the likes of Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgard; the conflicts despite their slightness, still strike harder than the scenes that took place in Batmanglij’s previous cult thriller. In fact here, while not perfect, the film indeed feels more rounded.  

Much like The Sound of My voice, The East deals with another individual going undercover to spy on a marginalised societal group, only to find themselves slowly softening to the plight. Marling may not give Donnie Brasco nightmares but as the undercover operative set in; I admired her Clarice Starling-lite resourcefulness. Marling’s range is impressive, with her straight-laced depiction of Sarah Moss being a 180 from the enigmatic Maggie from when we saw her previously. However she has stronger performances surrounding her here, that she can take from, even though the characters may not be as developed as one may like.

The East is much about the journey than the characters. Its politics important, yet idealistic. The female characters in it are motivated by their own plights than by male attraction.  Batmanglij and Marling are good at capturing the small details. As well as the cast clean up for their “jams” there are lived in moments feel quite true, even when things around them may not.  People have their Airport books, but The East is an airplane movie; doing enough to get you through an uninteresting or tough flight and give you and whoever you’re sitting next to a throwaway apple amount of food for thought. 

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Review: I Give It a Year

Year: 2013
Director: Dan Mazer
Screenplay: Dan Mazer
Starring: Rafe Spall, Stephen Merchant, Rose Byrne, Anna Farris, Simon Baker

Synopsis is here

Within fifteen minutes of screentime; the romantic comedy I give it a year had shown its hand.  The worst thing is that it only took 2 shots for the movies narrative to fall into place. Guessing the plot so easily doesn't make me a genius. With the amount of movies most of us watch, we all know the narrative beats subconsciously. However the freshness is always in the way a director arranges his scenes and moments that will disarms us. A shot that runs a bit too long could signify a moment of perfect pitch, or give the game away. Before the end of the first act, I knew that the third would lose its fizzle.

The film doesn’t rest on its laurels. As perfunctory as things occur, the film’s climax gives us a nice spin on a romantic comedy convention that even the most well versed fans may be slightly tired of. The cast give it their all, with the likes of Stephen Merchant and Rafe Spall bring a bit of charm to their well worn archetypes. Rose Byrne does exceedingly well in playing a portraying a character I never wanted to see happy, while Anna Faris becomes near unrecognisable as the slightly drippy U.S friend who decided to go away because...well I shouldn’t say more. Not that I need to, Dan Mazer’s screenplay and direction has humorous moments, but never really steps up to hit the home run need to be anything more than a late night rental.

I don't expect to go into rom-coms expecting the filmmakers to reinvent the wheel. There is a reason why we watch these things and I give it a year does ok with most of them, I guess. But when you’re more interested in the geographical anomalies that occur in the films London Soho setting. Then clearly there's a disconnect.

My girlfriend who brought the film round, reprimanded me as I guessed correctly which way the film was heading. "Why can't you just watch it" she exclaimed. She's right, but it’s not my fault. She claims the film is underrated, I felt it was undercooked. Go figure.

Review: World War Z

Year: 2013
Director: Marc Forster
Screenplay: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale

Synopsis is here

God bless Roger Ebert. He may not have embraced modern video games as art but World War Z reminds me that while Ebert may not have got the appeal, he could see why gamers would value Left 4 Dead over films like this. The amount of engagement in Valve’s apocalyptic Zombie series is paramount to its fear, tension and enjoyment. Marc Forster’s troubled production is a nice enough distraction from the barrage of comic book releases. Yet the film, while chocked full of set pieces, is actually quite in-distinctive  There’s little in the film to make it stand out from the pack.

One of the reasons is despite its globetrotting scale, the social-political components which make the best zombie movies stand out, are mostly eliminated here. Purists have already mentioned how the film deviates from the Max Brooks’ hit book almost entirely. Yet this film version eschews so much of what makes the sub genre what it is, that the film itself is as toothless as one of the nations it references.

When humanity is in such peril, we expect the last remnants of the species to become the horror. One shouldn't expect the sobering mood of post-apocalyptic texts such as The Road (2009), but World War Z does little with its humans. Instead it concentrates on its strangely bloodless set pieces, which contain the visually impressive “river” of the reanimated.  While the argument of fast or slow Zombies still rings in the ears of genre fans, this snarling, gnashing swarm of the undead is quite striking.

World War Z does have an admirable sense of scale as it leaves the U.S to Israel, South Korea before ending up in good old Blighty, but it lacks the smaller, dramatic moments that make up all the films that WWZ borrows from. War of the World had its dysfunctional family to drive its narrative. 28 Days Later had a plague so diseased that even the rats themselves flowed through the empty streets of London trying to avoid the infected.

World War Z does give us a resourceful protagonist in the way of Gerry (Pitt) whose particular set of skills are a cheerful break from the large volume of brooding, yet impervious super heroes.  It is unfortunate that we must wait until the films much debated third act (which was reshot) before the film utilises the more typical tropes of the genre and gains a larger sense of risk. Many have argued about the films change of pace, however, I gladly welcomed the stronger sense of tension that came with the final third.
Despite its troubles, World War Z is nowhere near the disaster many had set it up to be. However, it does little to really leave its mark on the genre, be it blockbuster or B-movie.