The first thing to make piece with is the fact this is not really an adaptation of the Max Brooks' novel from which it takes its name. It does take some ideas, but it is very much not the book, thus providing a good example of why you should try to not compare books and their movies. The mediums are very different things and the more personalities you bring in you will find better ideas and compromises, essentially change is a big part of the process. I guess I should also say that I have not read the book, although I am planning to.
World War Z is a big budget zombie epic that does not always feel like a zombie movie, more often it feels like a global disaster movie, a pandemic more akin to Outbreak or Contagion than Dawn of the Dead. Actually, I think it could be forced into the timeline of 28 Days Later. It really feels like what could have been going down during those weeks that Cillian Murphy's character was out
The movie follows Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a UN investigator, as he tries to track down patient zero in the hopes of finding a way to stop the zombie plague. His journey spans the globe and more often than not results in finding very little and narrowly escaping the oncoming flood of zombies. It is dealt with in pretty broad fashion, splitting focus between the big picture of losing a war to a virus and the small picture of Gerry and his family.
The big picture stuff is handled well, it is at paced and very rarely let's up. I even liked the pack mentality the zombie horde adopted, like when they are climbing over each other up the wall you see in the trailer (admittedly a scene I was not looking forward to, but is pretty good in the context of the movie).
The last third of the movie sees it take a smaller, more old school, and, dare I say, more traditional approach to the zombie movie. We get a small group of survivors closing in on a possible idea for a cure but having to navigate hallways where the dead roam, trying not to get their attention. Nicely done, quite tense.
Considering how troubled this production was, I was completely expecting a train wreck. I am of saying this is a perfect movie, but you can see the good stuff shine trough, some of the moments where they learn about the virus, or the personal moments between Gerry and his wife, with the latter adding a personal stake and investment to the proceedings.
I have read how the final third of the movie was not liked by anyone and Damon Lindeloff (Prometheus) and Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods) were brought in to rewrite the third act. You can see the dividing line where the original act went in one direction and this one in another, not to mention some more touches scattered throughout. I really like what hey added, how they brought the global back to the immediate and personal. I have also read descriptions of how it was originally supposed to end, and I have to say, I would probably have liked that to.
In the end, I have to say that this was a nicely made film that did a fine job of main a big budget zombie apocalypse. Granted, considering the large budget and Pitt as the lead, compromises were made and this is not as hardcore a zombie epic as horror fans would have liked, but it still manages to be a zombie movie and a thrilling one at that. Also, I think Pitt was a good choice for the lead.
So, don't expect the book or a Romero-styled zombie romp and you should have fun with this. It is fast paced, mixes fresh with familiar, and is just very entertaining on the bog screen.