Film: World War Z (2013)

Let’s just get one thing out of the way; this was never going to be like the book. The structure of Max Brook’s excellent fake history of a global zombie war had as much chance of fitting into a movie-shaped hole as Studs Terkel’s The Good War, the book that inspired it. A faithful adaptation would be much more suited to a Netflicks style series where episodes could be as long or short as needed and watched as stand alone entries or delved into in any order. What we have here is a film that tries to take some of the ideas and put them into a narrative structure, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The Jerusalem section is fantastic and worth the price of the ticket but both feeling and narrative suffer when the idea of ‘swarm’ is left behind in the final (replacement) act. That something different was being attempted is evident and commendable but, walking out the cinema, you can’t help but dream of an extended / alternate cut. 

That’s what I wrote for the local cinema page that I help admin on facebook when the film came out at the cinema and having had the chance to watch it again (the extended, mildly more graphic cut), I now think that I now like it a whole lot more.  It’s a smarter film than I originally gave it credit for and the final segment actually works quite well because the whole point of the film is about finding a weapon, a biological advantage, and these things tend to happen in small sterile rooms.

Conversely, I’ve recently tried to read the book again and, although some of the chapters are staggering, there is a lot of drag.  The Good War, on the other hand, is a stone cold classic of non-fiction and highly recommended.  Plus, it connects back to World War Z via interviewee Eugene Sledge who was portrayed in HBO’s The Pacific which features the actor James Badge Dale who is in World War Z… which is just about the most useless thing you will read today.

Film: 28 Days Later… (2002)

After the disappointment of The Beach, Danny Boyle went back to the drawing board, back to genre and turned out this lo-fi, low budget masterpiece. 28 Days Later… is a mishmash of classic sci-fi recalling the likes of The Day of the Triffids, The Death of Grass and I Am Legend, it’s a film written by an author (Alex Garland who would go on to be integral to some of the best recent sci-fi cinema) and all the better for it. Like a lot of great sci-fi it’s also a ferocious and smart movie where the quiet moments pack just as much punch.  World War Z might have given us the zombie plague as a tidal wave (and Boyle’s film overflows with great images) but the scene where a character recounts the story of a train station being overrun by infection is just as compelling… which is no mean feat considering that the best cinema is usually ‘show’ not ‘tell’.

The sequel, 28 Weeks Later, is a different type of film and, although not quite as good, is as great an example of the ‘again but more’ method of sequeling (?) as Aliens is to Alien.