World War Z and Monsters University are moderately entertaining, but PEOPLE’s critic says A Hijacking delivers the most thrills.
Here’s you guide to what to see and what to skip at the movies this weekend.
• World War Z
The trick to enjoying World War Z is to let the zombies win. Just give your brain over to the undead and let them gnaw away on your frontal lobe to remove any pesky doubts you might have about plot or logic – or even how zombies are “supposed” to behave. Because the minute you start actually thinking about what’s onscreen, you’ll kill the fun and it won’t rise again.
Fortunately, the film’s thrillingly kinetic first act will get your heart pumping without forcing your synapses to do anything too taxing.
Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) thinks his most harrowing days are behind him. As a former U.N. investigator, he’s been on the scene in the aftermath of some of the most grotesque human atrocities in places like Chechnya and Liberia. At home in Philadelphia, though, he’ll be an eyewitness to the worst.
As Gerry and his wife, Karin (Mireille Enos), take their daughters, Constance (Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove), to school the city explodes. The morning traffic becomes an obstacle course of death as the infected launch themselves at terrified masses, turning them into predators in 12 seconds. These zombies may move as quickly as the running dead in 28 Days Later, but they’ve got a few extra tricks.
While the world’s government structures disintegrate, Gerry hustles his family to safety onboard a floating command center on an aircraft carrier. Their price of admission? Gerry has to go back to work to find the source of the zombie plague.
It’s about then that WWZ asks you to relinquish your brain, because what follows makes precious little sense. Gerry gets on a plane to hop around the globe in an astoundingly deadly quest (to other people anyway) for answers that he could find by spending half an hour looking out a window.
Of course, if he didn’t get on that plane then we wouldn’t see very cool looking scenes of the zombies massing like ants to destroy Israel. (Interesting how they can cooperate without, y’know, sentience.) But we’d also be spared some of the movie’s more boneheaded moves, script shifts that make all that talk about the film’s plagued production feel like more than idle gossip.
The final act is something of a redemption, with its acute tension and measured pacing, but it feels like it’s from a different film entirely. If it weren’t for Pitt’s steady-hand-at-the-tiller performance and a few genuine scares, WWZ wouldn’t be half as much fun as it is.
Skip This Unless You Have Kids
• Monsters University
What your kids will see is a sweet, intermittently funny look back at Monsters Inc. stars Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) as college freshman, well before they were ever friends.
What you’ll see is Revenge of the Nerds.
Monsters U is cute, but there’s nothing innovative about it, as Mike and Sulley, both hoping to get into the Scare Program, are at loggerheads in their approach. Mike hits the books and takes notes, while Sulley’s more of a wing-it type.
Standing between them and jobs at Monsters Inc. is the imperial Dean Hardscrabble (the divine Helen Mirren), head of the department. The only way to impress her, it seems, is to join forces and win the campus-wide Scare Games, a rematch of Lambda Lambda Lambda and Alpha Beta. Or rather, the nerds of Oozma Kappa battling the jocks of Roar Omega Roar, led by head jerk Johnny Worthington (Nathan Fillion).
You know precisely how it all turns out – friendships will form, lessons will take root – but it should still be a good time for the single-digit set.
And see this too
• A Hijacking
Inspired by the real-life hijackings of Danish freighters in 2007 and 2008, A Hijacking is a fantastically taut thriller so rife with tension it’ll leave you frazzled.
The film, directed by Tobias Lindholm, cuts between two claustrophobic spaces: the cargo ship MV Rozen, where cook Mikkel Hartmann (Pilou Asbaek) and the rest of the crew are held captive by Somali pirates, and the headquarters of the Danish shipping company, where CEO Peter Ludvigsen (Soren Malling) takes nerve-wracking phone calls to negotiate their release.
An early scene in the film reveals Peter’s skill as a negotiator as he expertly maneuvers a Japanese company into a deal. But he’ll need resources he doesn’t know he has as he tries to keep the pirates, the hostages’ families and his own board of directors calm.
Malling gives a tightly nuanced performance as Peter, taking on the sole responsibility for his men’s lives, while Asbaek is also affecting in a role that does precisely the opposite, highlighting Mikkel’s terror and powerlessness on the stinking vessel. (Watching the pirates and hostages build a tentative camaraderie that’s as necessary as it is false is enough to drive anyone mad.)
The Hijacking is a haunting film, a slow turn of the screw on a narrative that tightens with every scene. It’s definitely worth seeking out.