I wanted to love this movie.
Having just read the book (which is brilliant) and being a big fan of the zombie genre in particular, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to see the 'Zombie War' unfold from beginning to somewhat-end in cinematic form. Most just drop you into the action, without any buildup into how the world got infected, and the book overcomes this neatly and realistically. I figured liberties would be taken with the movie, but was still hopeful of getting to see the beginning of the outbreak. I was disappointed in that regard.
I had certain doubts about it to be sure. The focusing on one person for the narrative instead of skipping around to different viewpoints as the outbreak spread seemed to be a misstep, as was the decision to go for a PG-13 rating. While I think they overcame the first concern, they never really saved themselves from the second: this is a Zombie movie that is not only bloodless, but dickless as well.
We open up on Brad Pitt and his family eating breakfast and planning a trip. Then, ZOMBIES! No real buildup, I don't know why they just didn't start with the car scene from the trailer, since everything before it is rushed and devoid of any emotional heft. They escape to a ship in the middle of the ocean along with the son from a Hispanic family they briefly hid with - since this movie didn't have the balls to even show blood after a plane crash, it sure as hell isn't going to kill a child (although the rest of his family bites it) (though we don't see it, and he doesn't seem to suffer any emotional turmoil over it whatsoever, other than to hug Brad Pitt in the helicopter immediately after). So there's that.
From then on the movie is basically the Brad Pitt show as he rushed to find the source of the outbreak and a possible cure. This part of the movie moves along at a good pace, but frankly it just a standard action flick (only with ZOMBIES instead of some other cookie-cutter bad guy) with the occasional brief interlude of the ship. There's some tension hinted at during a scene with his wife and a couple of soldiers on the ship, but since they don't bother to follow up on it in any way, I don't know why the even bothered with the cuts away.
I won't give away more of the plot other than to say I found the 'solution' to the outbreak to be rather trite and a huge step down from the book.
Most of the actors do a passable job, but since most aren't in but a few scenes before disappearing, this is mostly the Brad Pitt show, and he anchors the film well. It's just that the picture isn't asking much of him. Danielle Kertesz is a rather quiet badass that joins him in Jerusalem onward (making her probably the third largest part after Pitt and Mireille Enos - who played his wife and wasn't given much of anything to do). I couldn't help but hope that Kertesz might make an appearance in the rumored female Expendables movie just because she seemed so much better than the little she was given to do. Pretty much everyone else is window dressing, but at least they don't fuck up the acting.
The sets for the various locales were good, if standard. They existed for the Zombie attacks, which weren't terrible either, if a little too overtly CGI.
Really, my biggest problem with the movie is the removal of all blood from a fucking ZOMBIE INVASION! People are getting bit and eaten and I doubt more than a few drops of blood are shown throughout the movie. And understand that someone's hand gets chopped off to prevent the infection. No blood whatsoever. It's frankly ridiculous, and it cuts the narrative stakes down to their knees because how in the hell is anyone important going to die when they barely show the Random Faceless suffering? There are other problems with the movie (hint: if you hang around Brad Pitt and aren't 'mostly' white, prepare to not last long), but frankly, it lost me fairly early when it didn't show any of the results of what such a violent invasion would actually cause.
Rating: 4.5 out of 10.