World War Z (film)

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World War Z
World War Z poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Marc Forster
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
Based on World War Z 
by Max Brooks
Music by Marco Beltrami
Cinematography Ben Seresin
Edited by
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • June 2, 2013 (2013-06-02) (Empire Cinema)
  • June 21, 2013 (2013-06-21) (United States)
Running time
116 minutes[1]
Country United States[2][3]
Language English
Budget $190 million[4][5]
Box office $540 million[6]

World War Z is a 2013 American apocalyptic action horror film directed by Marc Forster. The screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, and Damon Lindelof is from a screen story by Carnahan and J. Michael Straczynski, based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Max Brooks. The film stars Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, a former United Nations investigator who must travel the world to find a way to stop a zombie pandemic.

Pitt's Plan B Entertainment secured the film rights in 2007, and Forster was approached to direct. In 2009, Carnahan was hired to rewrite the script. Filming began in July 2011 in Malta, on an estimated $125 million budget, before moving to Glasgow in August 2011 and Budapest in October 2011. Originally set for a December 2012 release, the production suffered some setbacks. In June 2012, the film's release date was pushed back, and the crew returned to Budapest for seven weeks of additional shooting. Damon Lindelof was hired to rewrite the third act, but did not have time to finish the script, and Drew Goddard was hired to rewrite it. The reshoots took place between September and October 2012.

World War Z premiered in London on June 2, 2013, and was chosen to open the 35th Moscow International Film Festival. The film premiered in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles on June 14, 2013, and released everywhere on June 21, 2013, in the United States, in 2D and RealD 3D. The film received positive reviews as a realistic revival of the zombie genre, but received certain criticism for the anti-climax and outdated CGI. Regardless, the film was a commercial success, grossing over $540 million against a production budget of $190 million, becoming the highest-grossing zombie film of all time. A sequel was announced shortly after the film's release and is scheduled for June 9, 2017.


A zombie outbreak erupts in metropolitan areas around the world; those bitten by the creatures become zombies themselves within several (twelve) seconds. Retired United Nations (UN) investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), his wife Karen (Mireille Enos), and their two daughters manage to escape the outbreak in Philadelphia and take shelter with a family in Newark while waiting for special evacuation the next day, thanks to Gerry's friend UN Deputy Secretary-General Thierry Umuntoni (Fana Mokoena). They find a shelter for the night while waiting for a rescue helicopter. Their hosts choose not to accompany them when they flee the next day and are subsequently bitten and changed by zombies. Their son, Tommy, manages to escape, and Gerry's family takes him in. They are flown to an offshore U.S. Navy carrier group near New York where Umuntoni is overseeing the remaining worldwide governments' reactions.

The scientists there believe they must first find the cause of the zombie outbreak, believed to be in South Korea. A team of U.S. Navy SEALs is dispatched to go and defend Gerry. Gerry is coerced into going with them under the threat of having his family sent to a potentially unsafe mainland refugee camp. The team lands at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi-do, where the surviving soldiers hold back zombie attacks. Gerry learns that a Korean doctor was the first to come down with the rabies-like infection, after being bitten by a soldier he was treating, whom local villagers had captured when he tried to attack them. A former CIA operative held at the base for selling arms to North Korea reveals that Israel had reacted a week before the outbreak, building giant walls around Jerusalem, and suggests that Gerry talk to Mossad agent Jurgen Warmbrunn.

Gerry is flown to Jerusalem and is brought to Warmbrunn (Ludi Boeken). The Mossad agent reveals they had intercepted a message from the Indian Army on fighting the rakshasa ("Demons"). He and other Israeli experts convinced the government to build the wall to protect themselves, but allowing all uninfected people to move in. As Gerry is escorted back to his plane by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), zombies are drawn to the loud music and singing in the city and pile themselves against the wall, forming a mound of bodies that allows many to clear the wall. As the city is quickly overtaken, Gerry and the IDF members battle their way to escape. On their way, Gerry notices that the zombies avoid attacking an elderly man and, in another instance, a young feeble boy. A zombie bites Gerry's IDF escort; and he quickly amputates her hand, which prevents her from being infected. Eventually, Gerry and the same female IDF escort, who identifies herself only as Segen, are able to board the last passenger jet leaving the city.

Gerry recounts the zombie attacks and remembers seeing sick, injured, and elderly people passed over by the zombie hordes, which leads him to believe this is evidence of some way to deal with them. He contacts Umuntoni to help convince the pilots to take them to Cardiff where an operational WHO (World Health Organization) facility is located. Nearing approach, a single zombie is discovered on the plane, and most of the passengers are quickly infected and converted. Seeing no other option, Gerry uses a grenade from Segen's pack to rupture the cabin and blow out the zombies, but in the process, causes the plane to crash. Gerry and Segen survive, though Gerry is impaled by debris from the crash. They make their way to the WHO facility where Gerry blacks out and falls into a coma.

Gerry wakes up a few days later nursed back to health. He contacts Umuntoni to help convince the WHO employees of his identity, but learns that Karen and his family were shipped to the mainland as they presumed he had died in the plane crash. Gerry explains his theory that the zombies ignore the infirm for the healthy, and suggests injecting themselves with a deadly but curable disease to mask themselves from the zombies. The WHO scientists agree but point out the pathogens are located in one of the zombie-infested labs. Gerry, Segen, and a WHO scientist carefully work through the infested labs but are detected. Segen and the scientist get to safety, while Gerry finds himself in the vault with the pathogens and becomes cornered by a lone zombie. Without the ability to identify the strains in storage, many of which could kill him, Gerry injects himself with one of the samples and finds himself still alive. His hypothesis is proven correct as the zombie enters the vault but does not attack, allowing him to walk back to safety with more samples as the rest of the zombies run right past him. Gerry is then treated for the disease.

Later, as Gerry and Segen are taken to the mainland refugee camp in Nova Scotia where Gerry is reunited with his family, he explains they were able to use these diseases to create a masking agent, allowing them to rescue refugees still trapped by zombies and fight against them. He says that this isn't the end and the war has just begun, but there is hope as people have used the masking agent to evacuate people or fight back.


Additionally Peter Capaldi, Pierfrancesco Favino, Ruth Negga, and Moritz Bleibtreu portray W.H.O. doctors. David Andrews plays U.S. Navy Captain Mullenaro.[12] Elyes Gabel plays Dr. Andrew Fassbach.[13] Michiel Huisman plays Ellis, a U.S. Army Ranger stationed at Camp Humphreys, South Korea. Gregory Fitoussi plays a pilot stationed at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, and flies Lane from Camp Humphreys to Israel.



"This whole thing started because I just wanted to do a film that my boys could see before they turned 18 — one that they would like, anyways. And they love a zombie."

— Pitt on his involvement in the film[14]

After a bidding war with Leonardo DiCaprio's production company Appian Way, Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment secured the screen rights to the novel in 2007.[15] The first screenplay was written by Babylon 5 and Rising Stars creator J. Michael Straczynski, who identified the challenge in adapting the work as "creating a main character out of a book that reads as a UN report on the zombie wars."[16] Marc Forster signed on to direct, and described the film as reminiscent of 1970s conspiracy thrillers like All the President's Men.[17] Straczynski, however, identified 2002 spy film The Bourne Identity as an appropriate comparison, and noted that the film would have a large international scope which maintained the political emphasis.[18] When asked about his involvement with the film, author Max Brooks stated that he had "zero control", but favored a role for Brad Pitt,[19] and expressed approval for Straczynski as screenwriter.[20][21] Brooks said: "I can't give it away, but Straczynski found a way to tie it all together. The last draft I read was amazing."[22]

An early script was leaked onto the internet in March 2008, leading to a review by Ain't It Cool News which called it "[not] just a good adaptation of a difficult book [but] a genre-defining piece of work that could well see us all arguing about whether or not a zombie movie qualifies as 'Best Picture' material". The review also noted the film appears stylistically similar to Children of Men, following Gerry Lane as he travels the post-war world and interviews survivors of the zombie war who are "starting to wonder if survival is a victory of any kind."[23] Straczynski had hoped that the film would begin production by the start of 2009.[18] In March 2009, Forster said that the script was still in development and he was not sure if World War Z would be his next film.[24] Later in March, rumors surfaced that production offices were set up and the film was in early pre-production.[25] In June 2009, Marc Forster told an interviewer that the film would be delayed, stating that the film's script still needs a lot of development and is "still far from realization".[26]

In July 2009, Brooks revealed that the script was being re-written by Matthew Michael Carnahan. Brooks believed that this "show[ed] [the producer's] confidence in this project" because of the amount of money that was being invested in it.[27] Paramount Pictures and UTV Motion Pictures announced at the 2010 Comic-Con that Forster was set as director, and Brad Pitt was confirmed to play the lead role.[28] In March 2011, it was reported that Paramount was searching for co-financier, and would likely pull the plug on the adaptation without one.[29] The article also stated that "an eleventh-hour effort is being made to court frequent Paramount co-financier David Ellison." A week later, it was reported that "hot and heavy talks are going on with David Ellison's Skydance and as many as two other financiers."[30]


Pre-production began in April 2011 with Robert Richardson announced as the cinematographer.[31] In the same month it was reported that filming locations would include Pinewood Studios and London, England.[32] Also in April, Mireille Enos was cast as Gerry Lane's wife and mother of their two children.[8] In June 2011, James Badge Dale entered negotiations to join the film as an American soldier who tries to alert authorities that the zombie threat is real.[9] It was also reported that filming would begin in Malta in July 2011 and would encompass Valletta and The Three Cities.[33] A few days later Matthew Fox and Ed Harris entered talks while Julia Levy-Boeken was set to join the film.[11] The same day Lucy Aharish joined the cast as a young Palestinian woman.[34] It was also reported that filming would also take place in Glasgow, Scotland in August 2011.[35] Glasgow would double as Philadelphia, "with false shop fronts being constructed and American cars on the roads."[36] The city was reportedly chosen after "many months looking for the perfect city centre location to play an important part in the film."[35] Philadelphia was passed on due to "uncertainties about state tax credits for filmmakers."[37] Filming was originally planned to take place in Royal Tunbridge Wells, England before moving to Glasgow.[38] Later in June, visual effects house Cinesite announced that it would work on "a significant amount of shots".[39] At the end of the month it was reported that neither Matthew Fox nor Ed Harris would be starring in the film despite previous reports: Fox had a scheduling conflict stemming from his prior commitment to star in Alex Cross with Tyler Perry at Summit Entertainment.[40] Fox was later spotted, filming scenes in Falmouth, Cornwall.[41]


Filming in Glasgow, August 2011

On a budget of $125 million,[29] World War Z began principal photography in July 2011 in Malta, with the first images of production being released a few days later.[7] Filming was set to move to Glasgow, Scotland in August with the production company looking to recruit 2,000 local extras for the shoot.[42] At least 3,000 people showed up at a casting call in Glasgow on July 9, hoping for the opportunity to appear in a scene set in a financial district in Philadelphia.[43] Scenes were also shot in Falmouth, Cornwall.[44] Also in July 2011, Game of Thrones actor Elyes Gabel was cast as a character named Fassbach.[13]

In August 2011, Bryan Cranston entered negotiations to join the film in a "small but flashy" role, but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. Also in August, filming was set to take place along a road on the perimeter of the Grangemouth Refinery in Grangemouth, Scotland. The location was chosen for the length of the road which is crucial to the shot.[45] A few days later Paramount announced the film would be released on December 21, 2012.[46] Later in the same month, filming began in Glasgow. The location manager for the film said Glasgow had been chosen because of its architecture, wide roads and grid layout.[47] Scenes were also filmed aboard the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship RFA Argus, before the Glasgow shoot. The ship was turned into the "USS Madison", which involved stenciling a new pennant number on to the funnel, as well as adding some "Americanism" to the superstructure. Steven McMenemy, the Argus's navigator said, "The ship sailed and we were joined by four small catamarans which were being used as markers for the cameras, so that warships could be added in with CGI later."[48] In October 2011, David Morse was cast as a "prisoner living in an abandoned jail."[10]

The filmmakers initially intended to film a climactic battle scene set in Russia, and the crew moved to Budapest to film it there.[49] Filming in Budapest commenced on the evening of October 10, 2011.[50] That morning, the Hungarian Counter Terrorism Centre raided the warehouse where guns had been delivered for use as filming props.[50] The 85 assault rifles, sniper rifles, and handguns had been flown into Budapest overnight on a private aircraft, but the film's producers had failed to clear the delivery with Hungarian authorities, and while the import documentation indicated that the weapons had been disabled, all were found to be fully functional.[50][51] On February 10, 2012, the charges were dropped after investigators were unable to identify exactly which "organization or person" had "ownership rights"; therefore they could not "establish which party was criminally liable".[52]


In May 2012, production returned to Budapest for seven weeks of additional shooting.[53] The following month, screenwriter Damon Lindelof was hired to rewrite the film's third act with reshoots scheduled to begin in September or October 2012.[54] However Lindelof, who also reworked Prometheus and co-wrote Star Trek Into Darkness, did not have time to script the new ending and in July 2012, Paramount hired Lindelof's Lost partner, Drew Goddard.[55] 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 chose to shoot 30 to 40 minutes of additional footage to make a coherent ending. Goddard later told Creative Screenwriting, "To me the big lesson of World War Z was that Paramount, Plan B and Brad Pitt simply said, 'Let's take the time to make this movie the best version of the movie before we put it on the screen for audience.' That doesn't happen a lot. A lot of times they just throw the movie out there and say, 'We'll make all our money opening weekend and then the movie will go away.' I came away from it thinking, 'Why don't we do this on more movies?'"[56]

The re-shoots coupled with other overages caused the budget to balloon to around $190 million, which shocked Paramount president Marc Evans.[4][5][57] Several of the scenes shot in Budapest, including a large-scale battle with the zombies in Moscow's Red Square,[58] were dropped from the final cut in order to water down the film's political undertones, and steer it towards a more generally friendly summer blockbuster.[59] The climactic battle scene in Russia, for which there was 12 minutes of footage, had Pitt's character fighting through zombies more like "a warrior hero" than "the sympathetic family man" of the earlier acts. The second-unit director, Simon Crane, said, "It wasn't character-driven anymore... [The filmmakers] really needed to think about what they wanted to do with the third act."[49] Additional scenes were also filmed at the Pfizer building at Discovery Park in Sandwich, Kent for scenes where Gerry tries to find a cure for the zombie pandemic.[60]

In March 2013, it was reported that Paramount changed a scene in the film in which the characters speculate that the zombie outbreak originated in mainland China in hopes of landing a distribution deal in the country.[61] However, an executive familiar with upcoming releases in China later told The Wrap in June 2013 that a cut of the film was rejected by Chinese censors. A Paramount executive contended that he was "unaware of any rejection", explaining, "We have submitted one version and have yet to receive a response."[62]


In December 2011, it was reported that Marco Beltrami had signed on to score World War Z.[63] In May 2013, the British rock band Muse posted a video on their YouTube channel, hinting that they would be contributing to the soundtrack of World War Z; the instrumental-dubstep versions of the songs "The 2nd Law: Isolated System" and "Follow Me" (produced by the electronic band Nero )[64][65] were used.[66] In June, Warner Bros. Records released the soundtrack album for the film, which featured the original score composed by Beltrami.[67]

World War Z: Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by Marco Beltrami
Released June 18, 2013
Genre Classical
Length 44:09
Label Warner Bros. Records
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Movie Wave 3.5/5 stars
Filmtracks 3/5 stars
World War Z: Music from the Motion Picture
No. Title Length
1. "Philadelphia"   4:03
2. "The Lane Family"   2:47
3. "Ninja Quiet"   2:54
4. "Searching for Clues"   5:33
5. "NJ Mart"   4:01
6. "Zombies in Coach"   3:43
7. "Hand Off!"   2:49
8. "No Teeth No Bite"   3:25
9. "The Salvation Gates"   4:24
10. "Wales"   5:22
11. "Like a River Around a Rock"   5:08
Total length:


Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster promoting the film during the 2013 Cannes Film Festival

World War Z was initially scheduled for release by Paramount and Skydance on December 21, 2012, but in March 2012 it was pushed back to June 21, 2013, with Paramount electing to release Jack Reacher on the December 2012 date.[46][68] The world premiere of World War Z was held at the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square, London on June 2, 2013.[69] British rock band Muse, who contributed toward the film's soundtrack, performed at the World War Z post-premiere concert at the Horse Guards Parade, to help promote the film.[70] On June 6, Pitt attended screenings of the film in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago and Austin all in one day.[71] The film was chosen to open the 35th Moscow International Film Festival.[72] World War Z was released exclusively to Glasgow's Grosvenor Cinema in Ashton Lane on June 19, two days before it was launched worldwide.[73]


Box office[edit]

World War Z grossed $202,359,711 in North America, and $337,648,165 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $540,007,876.[6] Variety called it a bona-fide box office hit.[74]

In North America, World War Z earned $25.20 million on its opening Friday,[75] including $3.6 million from Thursday night and midnight shows.[76] It went on to finish in second place behind Monsters University during its opening weekend with $66.41 million.[77] This was the second-largest opening weekend for a film that did not debut in first place (behind The Day After Tomorrow),[78] the largest opening weekend for a film starring Brad Pitt[77] and the sixth-largest opening among films released in June.[79]

In other territories, the film earned $5.7 million on its opening day (Thursday, June 20, 2013)[76] and $45.8 million on its opening weekend, ranking in third place.[77]

Critical response[edit]

World War Z has a 67% approval rating from review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 6.2/10 based on 252 reviews. The site summary states "It's uneven and diverges from the source book, but World War Z still brings smart, fast-moving thrills and a solid performance from Brad Pitt to the zombie genre."[80] Metacritic, which uses a weighted mean, assigned a score of 63 out of 100, based on reviews from 46 film critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[81]

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gives the film a 3 1/2 out of 4, saying "It's entertaining as hell" and it provides "nearly non-stop action". Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film a 3 out of 4, saying that "the suspense is killer". Henry Barnes of The Guardian considered World War Z an "attempt at large-scale seriousness" in the zombie genre, which resulted in a "punchy, if conventional action thriller."[82] Writing for Variety, Scott Foundas thought the film to be a "surprisingly smart, gripping and imaginative addition to the zombie-movie canon", which shows "few visible signs of the massive rewrites, reshoots and other post-production patchwork."[83] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter opined that "Brad Pitt delivers a capable performance in an immersive apocalyptic spectacle about a global zombie uprising."[84] A. O. Scott of The New York Times said, "[It] does not try to extend the boundaries of commercial entertainment but does what it can to find interesting ways to pass the time within them."[85] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times remarked, "World War Z plays a bit like a series of separate films and the juncture where the new final act was grafted onto the proceedings is unmistakable, but unless you knew about the film's troubled past, you'd never guess it existed."[86]

Conversely, Joe Neumaier of The New York Daily News said that World War Z "is no summer thriller. It's an anemic actioner that fosters excitement like dead limbs as it lumbers toward a conclusion."[87] Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph thought that the film had been affected by its troubled development, observing that "the final product has an elaborate uselessness about it", in a film that has "no heart to be found amid the guts."[88] Alonso Duralde of The Wrap said, "For all its effectiveness at portraying the horror of possible human extinction, the film's actual humans are so soulless that this could just as well be the movie version of the video game Plants vs. Zombies."[89]


List of awards and nominations
Year Award Category Nominee Result
2014 Young Artist Award[90] Best Leading Young Actress in a Feature Film Abigail Hargrove Nominated
2014 Saturn Award[91] Best Thriller Film World War Z Won

Home media[edit]

The film was released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on September 17, 2013. The Blu-ray disc contains an unrated cut.[92] It adds seven minutes of additional footage featuring moderate amounts of blood, gore and violence. Some scenes that are shown in cinemas are also extended.

Video game[edit]

A video game tie-in survival horror game, World War Z, was developed by Phosphor Games Studio and released for the iOS mobile platforms in May 2013. The game is a spin-off of the film, being set in Denver, Kyoto, and Paris, and featuring an entirely different set of characters.[93]


In January 2012, director Forster and Paramount said that "[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".[94] Plans for future installments were shelved due to the film's production troubles.[95]

In June 2013, after the successful opening of World War Z, Paramount announced that it was moving ahead with a sequel.[95] In December 2013, it was reported that Juan Antonio Bayona had been chosen to direct the film.[96] In May 2014, Steven Knight was set to write the script.[97] However, in January 2016 Paramount anounced that Bayona left the project due to other commitments.[98] The film is scheduled to be released on June 9, 2017.[99]


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