Through a series of oral interviews, Brooks, as an agent of the United Nations Postwar Commission, describes the history of ‘World War Z’. Although the origin of the zombie pandemic is unknown, the story begins in China where a young boy becomes the pandemic’s “patient zero”—(implied not the first victim chronologically), at which the Chinese government attempts to contain the infection and concocts a crisis involving Taiwan to mask their activities. The infection is spread to other countries by the black market organ trade and by refugees, before an outbreak brings the plague to public attention.
As the infection spreads, Israel initiates a nationwide quarantine and closes its borders to everyone except uninfected Jews and Palestinians, putting down an ultra-Orthodox uprising. Pakistan and Iran destroy each other in a nuclear war after the Iranian government attempts to stem the flow of refugees fleeing through Pakistan.
When the world recognizes the true extent of the problem, a “Great Panic” begins. Following the loss of New York City, the U.S. Army sets up a high-profile defense at Yonkers, New York, from which the U.S. military wields anti-tank weapons and demoralization through wounding; but these prove ineffective against zombies, which “can’t be shocked and awed”, have no self-preservation instincts, and can only be stopped if shot through the head. The soldiers are routed on live television, while other countries suffer similarly disastrous defeats, and human civilization nears collapse.
In South Africa, the government adopts a plan drafted by ex-apartheid government official Paul Redeker, which calls for the establishment of small sanctuaries, and leaves large groups of refugees abandoned alive to distract the undead, allowing those within time to regroup and recuperate. Governments worldwide assume similar plans or relocate the populace to safer foreign territory, such as the complete evacuation of the Japanese Home Islands. Because zombies freeze solid in the cold, many civilians in North America flee to the wildernesses of northern Canada and the Arctic, where some 11 million people die of starvation and hypothermia. The three remaining astronauts in the International Space Station survive the war by salvaging supplies from the abandoned Chinese space station, and maintain some military and civilian satellites using the various pods attached to the ISS and the orbital fuel station.
The United States eventually establishes safe zones west of the Rocky Mountains, and spends much of the next decade eradicating the pandemic in that region. All aspects of civilian life are devoted to supporting the war effort against the pandemic. Much of it resembles total war strategies: rationing of fuel and food, cultivation of private gardens, and civilian neighborhood patrols. The U.S. government also initiate a “Re-education Act” to train the civilian population for the war effort, as other countries use humiliating public punishment to restore order.
A conference is held off the coast of Honolulu, Hawaii, aboard the USS Saratoga, where most of the world’s leaders offer to outlast the zombie plague, but the U.S. President argues for the offensive. Determined to lead by example, the U.S. military replaces fully automatic weapons and mobility by semi-automatic, high-power rifles and formation and volley firing; retrains soldiers to specialize in head shots and slow, steady rates of fire; and devises a multipurpose hand tool, the “Lobotomizer” or “Lobo” (described as a combination of a shovel and a battle axe), for close-quarters combat. In three groups (north, central, and south), the U.S. Army traverse the continent in a three-year campaign, systematically destroying the zombies and reclaiming outposts of survivors, making use of force when necessary. So on goes the story of the zombie pandemic….
In ‘World War Z,’ Brad Pitt gave son Maddox a cameo: ‘He gets shot in the head multiple times’
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. The 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.
Pre-production began in April 2011 with Robert Richardson announced as the cinematographer. In the same month it was reported that filming locations would include Pinewood Studios and London, England. Also in April, Mireille Enos was cast as Brad Pitt’s wife and mother of their two children. 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.
On a budget of $125 million, World War Z began principal photography in July 2011 in Malta, with the first images of production being released a few days later. Filming was set to move to Glasgow, Scotland in August with the production company looking to recruit 2,000 local extras for the shoot. 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.
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. It was also revealed that several of the scenes shot in Budapest 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.
Brooks has also criticized American isolationism:
“I love my country enough to admit that one of our national flaws is isolationism. I wanted to combat that in World War Z and maybe give my fellow Americans a window into the political and cultural workings of other nations. Yes, in World War Z some nations come out as winners and some as losers, but isn’t that the case in real life as well? I wanted to base my stories on the historical actions of the countries in question, and if it offends some individuals, then maybe they should reexamine their own nation’s history.”
Starring Brad Pitt as United Nations agent Gerry Lane, Mireille Enos as Karen, Gerry’s wife , Daniella
Kertesz as a female Israeli soldier, James Badge Dale as Captain Speke, U.S. Army special forces officer, David Morse as Gunter Haffner, a prisoner living in an abandoned jail, Ludi Boeken, Fana Mokoena, Abigail Hargrove as Rachel, Gerry’s daughter and many more international stars.
World War Z is a Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions presentation directed by Marc Forster. It is distributed by United International Pictures through Solar Entertainment Corporation. Showing at your favorite theaters and cinemas on June 19.