Another indication that World War Z was headed in the right direction (at least as far as I'm concerned) can be found in the faces of its actors. First of all (it's in the billing), Brad Pitt ages well into his role, one which superficially sets him up to be a sort of Tom Cruise man against all odds, only to allow Pitt to reveal shades of fear and doubt in his portrayal of a sympathetic father figure who has no choice but to do his part to help save the world. He may hold previous Sexiest Man Alive status, but Pitt also knows how to make us believe, while he’s running from and staring down zombies, that what he’s really thinking of is how to get out and back to his wife and kids, and to also somehow not resent him for the good fortune he’s trying so desperately to preserve.
The rest of the cast may not have as many shades, but in brief roles that somehow avoid contributing to the aggregate appearance of a Jennings Lang all-star roster their arresting faces help them stand out against a swarming horde of the undead and the devastation left in their path. Among those standing out in all-too-brief appearances are Mireille Enos in the relatively thankless role of Pitt’s stoic wife; Daniella Kertesz as the unfortunate Israeli soldier who accompanies Pitt out of Jerusalem; James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3) and Bill Forsyth regular John Gordon Sinclair as Navy SEALs; Ludi Boeken as the Israeli agent who explains to Pitt how he was able to anticipate the zombie invasion of Jerusalem; Fana Mokoena as the UN secretary who is left with, among other weighty responsibilities, the care and fate of Pitt’s family; David Morse as a jailed C.I.A. agent who explains, with words and a toothless grimace, the horrific North Korean approach to proactive zombie defense; and Peter Capaldi (another Forsyth alum almost but not quite reunited with Sinclair; they both appeared in Local Hero) and Pierfrancesco Favino as World Health Organization doctors none too eager to welcome Pitt into the newly haunted halls of their research facility. (Only Matthew Fox, recognizable under a beard as a navy pilot, fails to make much of an impression.)
Add also to the ranks of Drs. W.H.O. the stunning Ruth Negga, well-known to U.K. audiences for several TV appearances and a recent award-winning turn as Shirley Bassey in a television biopic. Negga, an actress of Irish and Ethiopian descent, is blessed with sleepily seductive eyes and an inescapably gorgeous countenance which I’m sure could, if given half a chance, inspire even zombies to renounces the pleasures of the flesh. I’m grateful to World War Z for the chills it generated down my spine on a hot summer night, surrounded by a multiplex full of moviegoers who I’m convinced could have turned on me undead-style at a moment’s notice. But I think I’m even more grateful for having been introduced to this talented and beautiful young actress, who impresses here in a brief scene reacting to horrors witnessed on a surveillance monitor but who surely will have many more signature moments in roles better suited to her possibilities than the ones afforded her here.