With cities and countries overrun daily, former UN troubleshooter Gerry (Brad Pitt) manages to save his wife (Mireille Enos) and two daughters in a last-ditch chopper rescue from a Philadelphia rooftop.
With survivors huddling on board a US warship, Gerry must lead a mission to find a cure to the zombie pandemic, though given he’s not a scientist one wonders what his qualifications might be.
First a SEAL team fly him to South Korea, thence to Israel, the only nation so far to have successfully kept out the living dead. Not for long: Jerusalem itself comes under siege, and Gerry is once again fleeing with the rest of the terrified masses.
These horror setpieces keep coming, almost overleaping one another in their speed and surprise. There are gruesome touches, too, such as Gerry lopping off the bitten hand of a young Israeli soldier (Daniella Kertesz) to save her from being infected.
Best of all is the scene aboard an airliner where the passengers at the front of the plane must barricade themselves against the zombies that have taken over the rear section. The warning’s right there: don’t fly economy. It makes Ryanair look positively civilized.
The third act, located at a medical research centre in Cardiff, of all places, may be the most nail-biting of the lot. Pitt, in long-haired, sensitive-guy mode, leads the line unshowily, supported by an unfamiliar cast, while director Marc Forster makes the most of his gigantic budget ($200 million-plus). You won’t see much in it that’s unfamiliar - it’s a zombie flick after all - but what you do see is capably managed and not without a jolt or two.
- Anthony Quinn