Saturday, August 10, 2013

Blue Jasmine (2013)

My chief observations about the title character can also be applied to the movie: she's neither right nor wrong, not good or bad, at least not as bad as she could be.

The movie starts with Jasmine talking to her seatmate on a flight, about leaving college and abandoning hopes of a career in anthropology to marry Hal, a promising dreamboat. Blue Moon was playing when she and Hal met, and it's always been their song. As she prattles on, while disembarking and on through baggage claim, while her companion is unable to get a word in edgewise, it becomes clear that she doesn't even know the lady to whom she's talking, but Woody feels the need to hit us over the head with that point by not only having the woman walk away from Jasmine, but express what a pain she was to someone arriving at the airport to pick her up. A moment of subtle humor becomes a bludgeon, when taken too far.

A chic Jasmine directs a cabbie to an address she recites from a handwritten note, while bending his ear. When she arrives at the place, she has to call her sister to confirm that she's at the right hovel. She finds a spare key and over tips the driver for hauling her many Louis Vuitton bags up the stairs. Consequently, we are just as surprised as her sister, Ginger, to learn that Jasmine is broke. How did she manage to fly there first class if she has no money, Ginger asks. Jasmine doesn't know. She just did. And the Louis Vuitton? Don't judge her. She sold many of her expensive possessions and only got pennies on the dollar for them.

Sally Hawkins imbues Ginger with the type of working girl charm Marisa Tomei might bring to the role. Ginger seems genuinely good-hearted. Not slow-witted, but slow to act, easily influenced or silenced, low in self-esteem. She tells her two, chubby and blank-eyed sons that she and Jasmine were both adopted. Jasmine loved their parents, but Ginger didn't get along with them and left home early. Jasmine got the "good genes" was the common family opinion. Jasmine used to be Jeannine, but changed it.

There are frequent flashbacks from Jasmine's past life in the Hamptons with Hal, but for her they aren't flashbacks. She often slips into memory. Her current surroundings fade away and she's back in her mansion or at the stables, mingling with the social elite, saying what she said then. When shaken back to the present, she finds that she's been talking to herself. She's aware of her tenuous grip and tells Ginger that she can't be alone right now, as she swallows anti-anxiety pills.

Ginger's boyfriend was about to move in with her, but has been displaced by Jasmine's visit. This puts him at odds with the newcomer from the start. Of course, it would be easy to say that Jasmine turned her nose down at Ginger's blue collar love, but he's so obnoxious that anyone would. It's true that she's self-absorbed and that's probably more the cause of her current mental instability than a byproduct of it. However, she condescends in places that almost anyone would. Chili wants her out of Ginger's abode as soon as possible, so that he can move in, so from the moment he meets Ginger, he's pressuring her about finding a job. He knows a dentist who needs an assistant -- Jasmine isn't interested. Well, what would she like to do? Well, she once studied anthropology ... she thinks she'd like to return to school... As he looks at the cultured, but unskilled middle-aged woman who currently lives on her sister's couch, while still dreaming of becoming an archaeologist (anthropologist, same difference), Chili's skepticism is natural, but so is her disdain. In fact, Jasmine's reaction to him reminds me of another flower nom de plumed woman: Hyacinth Bucket and her travails with brother-in-law Onslow!

Chili takes Jasmine on a double date with Ginger and a pal of his, who's half Jasmine's size and 1/4 of her intellect. She escapes them into a bottle of vodka. Chili resents her attitude but, at this early stage in their history, his reaction is more based on what he's heard about Jasmine, more than on anything she's done. Ginger told him that Jasmine wanted nothing to do with her, when she was living the high life and only remembers that she exists now, when she needs help.

This opinion of Ginger's is justified. We flash back to Ginger and her ex, Augie, visiting Jasmine and Hal in her Manhattan apartment. Jasmine hopes to wash her hands of the tourists by setting them up in a Marriot and sending them sight-seeing. The fact that they're there during the week of her birthday is most inconvenient, since it forces her to invite them to her birthday party. Jasmine's ennui towards Ginger only lessens when she learns that Augie has recently won the lottery. He has a quarter-million to invest and suddenly Jasmine has all sorts of plans for them. She will get Hal to let them in on his latest hedge fund venture. He'll do them the favor of using their money to make more of it. They've never invested before and this is all they have, so Augie is hesitant, but looking around Jasmine's expensive home, Ginger needs know convincing. Hal obviously knows what he's doing. So, they give him their windfall and they lose it all when Hal is exposed as a Bernie Madoff-styled crook, who defrauded his investors and ended up in jail, when his Ponzi scheme was finally uncovered. We only get snatches of his unraveling at a time, interspersed with Jasmine's current life, but when we put all the pieces together, we learn that Hal hung himself in jail. Since it's only spoken of casually and in retrospect, it's impossible to know what Jasmine felt at the time, what grief -- or guilt -- the memory causes her.

She says that she never knew what Hal was doing financially, that she was his victim like everyone else. It's easy to believe her, because she's too self-preoccupied to scrutinize much. After all, she knew nothing about his affairs for many years.

During the same visit to Manhattan when Ginger and Augie gave Hal their money and sealed their low-class fates, Ginger caught Hal with another woman, while browsing the streets of NY. She agonizes about whether to tell Jasmine or remain silent. She mentions just enough of her suspicions to plant a seed of distrust in Jasmine. She'd always considered her husband too busy for infidelities, but hey, he's played by Alec Baldwin, we know what he's capable of! As she watches him with his physical trainer, his lawyer (described as a Chinese dragon woman, a line that's less comical than curious coming from Woody Allen) and their female friends, she begins to see an amorous undercurrent in these relations that she'd been blind to before.

Jasmine is not exactly painted as the typical grand dame. She loves the diamond baubles Hal gives her, but she loves him too. She even loves his son, in her way. When we first see her with him, we assume that she's the Baroness and he's a bothersome Von Trapp boy, but when she encourages Hal to spend more time with him, she actually means it. She's not naturally jealous or competitive. She's careless, but not unkind. Even with Ginger, she's disinterested, rather than heartless. In the end though, perhaps the two flaws have the same effect and only the most charitable try to distinguish between them.

When she had Ginger invest with Hal, we know that Jasmine probably didn't intend to actually hurt her. She assumed that her sister and Augie would make money, but her primary motivation was that Hal make even more of it. Her goal wasn't to help them, that would just be a happy fallout. She serves her own needs first, without particularly meaning to hurt others, but mindless of the possibility that she might. It's like the legal definition of gross negligence: There need be no willful misconduct. Simple reckless disregard for the consequences to the safety or property or another will suffice.

Pulling herself back into the present, Jasmine abandons her dreams of anthropology but thinks she might make a good interior decorator. She certainly worked with enough of them when decorating hers and Hal's many homes. Ginger, silently wondering how long she will be playing landlady to Jasmine, points out that becoming a designer takes time. No, Jasmine knows someone who got an online degree in designing. She could too -- if she knew anything about computers or the internet. She ends up taking the position of receptionist at that dentist's office Chili told her about, after all. Just so she can get enough money to learn computers and, then, take online design courses. Of course, it's absurd to think that anyone needs to take formal computer classes for online study. Thirty minutes in a chair is sufficient for maneuvering to a website and following the navigation buttons to the course you want. The idea that Jasmine is taking computer classes seems outdated by 15 years. I don't know if it's in the script for humor or a sign of Woody's own detachment from the real world. You don't need to know script any longer. Punch cards and floppies are obsolete. Allen has assistants to browse the internet for him, maybe he doesn't realize that no formal instruction is required any longer. Ginger's friends have no money, no lap top, no wifi, I'm sure. But her sons must access computers at school and she and Jasmine both have cell phones. You could take an online course on your iphone and print out the design degree. It's a poor plot device. It would have made more sense for Jasmine to work to pay for the design class itself, rather than to learn the basic skills needed to virtually attend one.

At the dental office, she tries to learn the office routine and does a half-way decent job, when she's not losing her temper with patients who are truly annoying, it's not just her. The irony is, even scheduling appointments in a computer database or learning to operate a multi-line phone takes more know-how than sitting for online classes does. Jasmine is not the best receptionist, but her boss is impressed with her grace, drawn to the way she wears her clothes (even just the jeans) and carries herself. She recycles the same clothes and handbag, they're old, but tasteful, having originally cost thousands. The classics endure forever, don't they?

When the dentist asks Jasmine out, she obliges to keep her job, but tells him she has a boyfriend, so that he'll keep his distance. It doesn't work and she quits when he starts mawling her. She fights back not only valiantly, but effectively, knocking him back in a scene that's both amusing and uncomfortable. She wasn't doing anything wrong, didn't deserve what happened and, I almost felt, should be applauded for managing to get along in the real world for a change. The sexual harassment she suffered is nothing compared to the harsher abuses people face daily, many with obligations far greater than Jasmine's who aren't lucky enough to land a receptionist position with little effort. It just shows that the world needn't be its cruelest to beat you down. Life's mere randomness can levy defeat. Looking at Jasmine I was reminded of Sister Carrie or Wharton's Lily Bart, whose downfalls were more poignant because it seemed that salvation was in their grasp, they were climbing up, but then reached for a rung too high, instead of grabbing the one surest and nearest. If they'd more quickly accepted slight disgrace they could have prevented utter ruin. Jasmine seemed to be avoiding this mistake when she forsake lofty expectations (or resigned herself to having to work up to them) and took the job in the dentist's office, but fate scoffed at her good intentions.

She explains what happened to a friend at the computer class who suggests she sue the dentist (my suggestion too), but Jasmine wants to move on. The friend, who's dating a lawyer, invites Jasmine to a party. She pesters Ginger into going with her. They both meet knights on white horses. Ginger's is an audio/video installer who thinks she's sexy. Jasmine's is a would-be politician who, like the dentist, is impressed with Jasmine's elan. He, Dwight, can see her as his own Jackie O. He just bought a house and Jasmine offers to give him decorating ideas. She tells him she's an interior designer and a widow. Her husband was a surgeon. Since Hal's fraud conviction and suicide doubtless made national news, one wonders how Jasmine can hope to get away with this lie? Is it her mental lapses that make her think she won't get caught or just poor plotting by Allen?

Ginger so loves being wooed by her audio tech that she starts giving Chili the cold shoulder. Even though they use cheap hotels or plain old vans for their rendezvous, Ginger feels it's a step up from what she's been used to. Jasmine is right. She's been selling herself short and settling for the wrong men. When Chili learns she's been dating someone else he becomes enraged, yanks her phone off the wall and paws at her, while Jasmine demands that he leave. His reaction is proof of the brute she's always seen him as being. Yet, with the lives Hal has ruined, the fortunes and livelihoods he stole, the fact that he was no better than Chili is a fact lost on Jasmine, but not the audience. Chili follows Ginger to the grocery store where she works as a cashier and causes a scene, actually crying when he ditches her.

Meanwhile, Dwight is charmed by the pieces Jasmine picks out for his home. She always knows what to say, what to do, which wine to choose. He asks her to marry him. One could almost read Jasmine's shock as rejection. Dwight doesn't see the fact that she needs to take anxiety pills after his proposal as a good sign, but she just gasps that her outburst is just because she wanted so much for him to love her and now he does. It's a surprising bit of candor. I'd have expected her to play it calm, cool, but her relief is too real for that. I realize that even when she was first charming Dwight, it wasn't a game. She wasn't trying to lure him in. Whether aloof or engaging, she was natural. Her sense of detachment was both mental and social, or social because it was mental. As desperately as she needed to snag a rich man, when she met Dwight, she was somewhere else in her head, at a party long past, hosting with Hal at another house, another time, and genuinely unaware of the gentleman whose eye she'd captured in the present. Her engagement to Dwight might pull her off of the unemployment line, but it wouldn't necessarily pull her back to sanity. This is clear when she takes her nephews to lunch, tells them she'll be getting married soon, but then briefly lapses into dementia that leaves their mouths ajar.

Ginger is stood up for a date with her audio tech guy. When she calls his job he tells her he can't see her anymore. His wife found out, so it has to end. Oh, didn't he mention that he was married? No, Ginger says. He didn't.

Jasmine recalls her last meeting with her stepson. He was leaving college, abandoning the ivy league school where everyone knew who his father was and what he had done. Jasmine begs him not to give up. Hal may have been a fraud, but there's no reason for his son to waste his education and future. The son won't listen to her. He says he knows what she's done.

Dwight takes Jasmine to meet his parents. They are duly charmed and he and Jasmine are window shopping for an engagement ring when Augie comes upon her. Long time no see, Jasmine -- or Jeannine. He'd heard that Jasmine was back in town, living with Ginger, although she'd had no use for her sister in the past and was responsible for everything they'd lost. Augie recalls how Hal killed himself and says he's seen Jasmine's son too. He now works at a shop in the city and Augie knows how the kid has turned his back on Jasmine too. It would have made more sense for Dwight to learn about Jasmine's past online. He didn't need an enemy from her past to walk up and lay it all out so dramatically, but it all turns out the same. Dwight turns on her for lying to him. How did she think she would keep it all a secret? Or maybe she only hoped it would stay a secret long enough for them to marry. Then, it would be too late. Clearly, Dwight's outrage is justified, but if he'd loved her enough . . .is he just fascinated by her image, by the ideal of how his political career might be furthered with her on his arm? Jasmine was deceitful to be sure, in addition to lying about her ex and her career, she also had Dwight meet her at hotels, so he wouldn't see how shabbily she lived with Ginger. However, if she'd been a consummate con artist, she could have won Dwight back over, turned on the charm, stroked his ego, cried to bring down his guard and spur his protective urges. But she doesn't know enough to do any of them. She shrieks and demands to be let out of the car. How will she get home, Dwight asks exasperated. Just let her out. He does and she stalks back to Ginger's, where Chili is back in residence.

The past is rushing back to Jasmine now. She remembers how a friend confirmed to her that Hal was unfaithful. Yes, he'd had affairs, many of them. Jasmine returned home to confront him, rather than apologizing Hal says that he's now in a relationship that's more than just lust. He wants a divorce. He intends to marry his latest lover. Jasmine becomes hysterical, flailing and screaming. Hal tells her she's having a "temper tantrum" and tries to restrain her, but a tantrum implies she's having an angry outburst to manipulate him. Her response is less rational than that. He tells her she'll be well-provided for and then leaves. She desperately fumbles for the telephone and asks for the number of the ... FBI. So, she's the one who turned him in, caused him to lose everything they'd had, go to jail and commit suicide. There's an audible gasp in the audience when this is revealed, but I suspected as much earlier, when the son partially blamed her the scandal. Jasmine may have cut off her nose to spite her face when turning her husband in. She'd vaguely suspected that her husband was bilking people all along and was happy to live off the proceeds, until she wanted revenge. She ratted him out to hurt him, rather than protect anyone else. Yet, if I understand nothing else Jasmine did, I can identify with that telephone call. There was something about Hal's unruffled confrontation that provoked her into wanting to get him in the only place where it would hurt. If he'd lied, if he'd cried and simply feigned remorse, things would have gone differently. But as selfish as Jasmine was, he was even more so, not even putting on a show of regret or compassion. Maybe she could have survived the cheating and divorce. It's the unconcern that did her in.

He's arrested. She has a nervous break down, undergoes shock therapy.

After leaving Dwight's car, Jasmine goes to the shop where Augie says her stepson worked. He's not happy to see her. He says that no matter how much he hated his father, he still blames her for turning him in. He wishes Augie hadn't given her his location. He never wants to see her again.

Chili and Ginger have made up and Ginger has gained resolve. She must blame Jasmine for having put higher hopes in her head, because now she's firmly on Chili's side and demands that Jasmine stop putting him down. Chili is moving in. Ginger must feel that she thought the grass was greener on the other side, but as little as he had to offer, Chili really loved her. What does he get in return? Was she even moved by her tears at the supermarker, or only repulsed? Maybe she was wrong to think she deserved more than he offered. It's hard to know whether to feel sorry for Ginger or not. She was hurt, but she hurt Chili. Jasmine uses her, but she responds passive aggressively, voicing her resentment to Augie and Chili in a way that's only human, but makes her seem like less of the loyal sister, deserving of only sympathy. As with Dwight and Jasmine, it's hard to know how deep Ginger's feelings for anyone really go. Did she help Jasmine out of love or pity or because she was too timid to do anything else? She doesn't seem to get satisfaction from Jasmine's downfall, but was she truly saddened by it? Ginger informs Jasmine that Chili is moving in. Maybe they'll get married. Jasmine angrily denounces the couple's reunion, but Chili has a new sense of confidence now and does not feel threatened. He laughs Jasmine's opinion off, rather than challenging it. Fine she says, Dwight has asked her to move in with him ahead of their engagement anyway.

She takes a swig of vodka, jumps into the shower, jumps out, still drenched. Clothes wet, mascara running, creating a lurid sight that should have at least caused Ginger to ask what was wrong, Jasmine announces that she's leaving and will send for her things later. She walks out and into the street, sitting on a park bench and stirring others to leave when she begins mumbling aloud to herself. Blue Moon was playing the night she met Hal. She used to know the words. What were they? Blue moon, you saw me standing alone, without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own.

So now will she lose her weak hold and sink completely into madness or, rather, does it seep fully into the porous fissures were never whole or sealed to begin with?

That's the question, if her finances were back on track, would she have healed or would that just have delayed the inevitable melt down? Did Hal's betrayal cause her to lose it or had the symptoms been there all along? How many of us seem normal, but would break under stress. How many carry a vulnerability that leads to the stress that will make us break? When Jasmine got the "good genes" did they include the one that would spark her own destruction? Crazed or crazy?

I don't know if the film means to take a side on the question, because I don't see Jasmine as having written her own fate. I can't say, she acted irrationally when she called the FBI. A reasonable person might have done the same in the face of Hal's patronizing calm. She may have been a time bomb ticking, but I see her more as one ignited. She walked through life casually dooming Ginger, Augie and bored airplane passengers, but couldn't get out of the way of the Hals and dentists waiting to trip her up.

Had she been a better person, or a worse one, her outcome would have improved, either way.

I've seen more Woody Allen films in the last decade, than I did in his heyday. It's not because I appreciate him more, but critical reaction to his work has finally deflated to normal proportions, so I feel less of a need to reject what I found so over-rated in the seventies and eighties. His movies signify more now, when there's less sound and fury about their merit. I found Crimes and Misdemeanors and Midnight in Paris much more delightful than Annie Hall. Without crime, fantasy or broad comedy, to enhance the plot, Jasmine does fall flat. It's not original, wacky or particularly realistic. Other than Cate Blanchett's performance, which was as entrancing when Jasmine was elegant, as in those moments when she came unglued, and seamlessly transitioned between the two, there's nothing much to recommend. Yet, there remains enough to analyze to make it worth a view.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

World War Z (2013)

I haven't gotten into the Walking Dead, Pride, Prejudice and Zombies or any of the many Zombcentric video games, so this movie was basically my indoctrination into the world of the undead and I liked it. It was full of action, tension and suspense, but without being rife with crashes and explosions. Blood and gore happened out of the camera's range. Furthermore, while it had no sex and very little cursing, it was not a kid's movie, mainly because of its humorless intensity. Playing the lead with unadorned humanity, Brad Pitt was more likable than I've seen him since Meet Joe Black. His Gerry Lane was heroic in his goodness, rather than physical prowess.

Gerry is a retired United Nations covert operator. He's cooking breakfast for his family (wife Karin and daughters Grace and Connie), while disturbing news story flash across the screen, but they're the every day variety. Death, strife, terror abound in the footage, but it's common place, not just in Jerry's world, but ours too.

The family bundles into their car and get caught in a traffic jam. Jerry's side view mirror is knocked off. He gets out to investigate. There's something strange in the air, but he can't pinpoint it. Suddenly, police are motorcycling through the stranded cars bellowing for everyone to get back in their cars. Before Gerry can obey or challenge those instructions, bedlam breaks out. Hordes of subhumans began attacking. They're mindless, fast-moving (bucking the slow-moving zombie lore) beings. Their mouths are mostly white orbs, mouths agape for mawing. They don't think, they just bite. People run in hysteria. Once bitten, they turn into the monsters themselves, within seconds.

Gerry takes in all the mayhem around him silently, concentrating on keeping his girls calm. They're a thankless brood. Well, the wife is helpful, but the kids have an unfortunate habit of disappearing in life and death situations, without a word to their parents. The older one is about 12 and asthmatic. She goes into shock. As Gerry tries to drive them away from the violent frenzy around them, one refuses to put on her seatbelt, so he has to worry about her being killed in a collision, on top of a zombie chomping her. She's really more trouble than she's worth.

When they discover that the eldest, Grace, does not have her asthma medicine, Gerry tries to calm her down by having her focus on him, rather than her fear of suffocating. Look at me. Breathe through your nose. She only halfway follows his direction. I know she's scared, but she just seems generally non-compliant and doesn't communicate her fear or hesitation. Although she seemed perfectly normal eating breakfast in the kitchen, once the zombie attack starts, she's silent in a way that makes me wonder if she doesn't have a cognitive impairment. Gerry stops off at a big box store to find her medicine. The place is being looted and the Lane family joins the melee.

Karin runs to get food, while Gerry searches for the medication. Near the pharmacy he's almost attacked by a crazed man, but it turns out it was just a scared drug store employee, trying to protect himself from the zombies. He asks Gerry what he needs and hunts down the asthma drugs for him. In fact, all of the humans in this story are helpful(well, except for the government which ultimately sells Gerry's family out). They assist each other and never play survival of the fittest. Although they may seem antagonistic upon approach, once they find that the other person is not a zombie and is not on the offensive, they yield and lend aid and cooperation. On a larger scale, the broad message is "once you understand the other person's motives, you're alike, not enemies."

Gerry has the medicine for Grace, but hears Connie screaming. Though everyone is yelling, Gerry recognizes his daughter's voice above all others and runs to her. Connie's about 8. She's in the shopping cart. She sees her dad, but doesn't explain to him what the problem is. This is common for all of the female Lanes. They yell "Gerry" or "Daddy! Daddy!" and then say nothing. He has to follow their point of focus with his eyes and figure out what they're trying to show him. In a disaster, this is a waste of precious time. So, Gerry looks around to try to discover what his kid is screaming about and sees his wife being attacked. He wards off the assailants and then they scramble to get the supplies they will need on the run. A police officer comes towards them and they think they might be arrested for looting, but he's actually trying to grab supplies off the shelves himself. The Lanes make their escape.

When they get to the parking lot, the RV they commandeered has disappeared. They head for an apartment building. They have to bat away zombies every few feet. Gerry canvases his surroundings and sees a whino on the street who is oblivious to the panic around him. For some reasons, the zombies don't attack this dilapidated man, but head after all of the people running away from them. In this chaos, Connie wanders away -- and that's what is so frustrating. It's not like she fell or lost her family. No, she just walks away from them. Yet, the parents don't yell at her. In fact, their main focus throughout everything is to keep their children calm. They feel, "If I behave as if I'm not scared, then my children won't be." But you know what? Sometimes, your children SHOULD be scared. They need to know they can't just walk away on a whim. Tell them they will die horrible deaths if they just keep walking away like that. Let them know, if the zombies don't kill them, you will!

Anyway, for no particular reason Connie has stopped cold in front of an apartment door. Her family backtracks, to go retrieve her. She says nothing but just stares, then pounds on the door, demanding that the occupants let her in. Why did she choose that one? Who knows. But the door opens. The family inside (a mother, father and son) see the Lanes and pull them all in to safety. They bar the door. The family offers them food and a place to sleep.

Gerry has called his old United Nations boss who says that they need him. Whole cities have been taken by the zombies and they need to find a way to stop the spread of what is essentially a virus. Gerry's old boss, Thierry, says he will move heaven and earth to come rescue Gerry. They can have a helicopter on the roof of the apartment he is in by morning. Gerry tells the family who is sheltering him that it's better to move. If they stay put, they will be trapped. They are Hispanic and the son, Tomas, translates for his parents. The father doesn't want to run, because he doesn't believe there's any place to run to.

Gerry falls asleep, but when he awakes, he can't find Grace. Alarmed he searches the apartment and she's sleeping with Tomas in his room. Tomas says that she started crying in the middle of the night and he comforted her. Again, why would she just leave the area where her parents were and go off without waking them, knowing they would be distressed to wake and see her gone??

The next morning, when Gerry and his family make the perilous journey to the apartment roof, Tomas' father refuses to join them. As soon as the Lanes leave, there is pounding on the apartment door as the zombies come for Tomas' family. Meanwhile, on the stairwell, the zombies are on the Lanes' heels. Gerry hits at one of them and some of the splatter gets in his mouth. When the family reaches the roof, he is ready to jump off the ledge. If he turns into a zombie, he doesn't want to risk harming his family. He counts to 12 and then steps down from the ledge. From what he has seen, it takes 12 seconds to turn from human to zombie, once bitten. He thinks he is safe. Relieved Karin says to him, "you're ok. You're ok." She didn't shriek like a banshee when she thought he was going to jump off the building and neither did his kids, so I'm not sure the daughters ever fully realized what could have happened in that moment.

As they climb up into the waiting helicopter, Tomas runs towards them. The Lanes shovel him into the vehicle and just as they are about to fly off Tomas' father, now a zombie, tries to stop them. Gerry kills him to free the helicopter. Safe, Karin holds one of their girls while Tomas, an orphan now, buries his head in Gerry's chest.

They are flown to a UN guarded compound. It's high off the ground and guarded with gunmen on all quarters, so the zombies can't access it. Thierry shows the family to their bunks. Karin laughs that it's not much smaller than the first apartment she and Gerry had. Gerry asks Thierry what's happening. Karin quietly tells them that they should discuss that somewhere else (outside of the children's' earshot). Gerry wordlessly acquiesces. He and Karin are not just married, they're partners, teaming to protect their family physically and emotionally.

Thierry and Gerry look at the zombie attack like a virus and Gerry thinks to find out how to stop it, they need to find where it started. Find the first person who carried it. There's a young doctor, just 23, who is the best hope of tracing the origin of the disease. They think a military base in South Korea may hold the answer, but it's been largely overrun with zombies, so to get in the doctor will need an escort. Thierry wants Gerry to fly over with him. Gerry refuses to leave his family. Thierry already told him that he didn't rescue Gerry for old time's sake. Gerry was one of the best men he had and he needs his help. The bunks at the compound are limited to essential personnel. If Gerry does not go to South Korea for him, he will have to remove his family from the compound. Gerry has no choice. He tells Karin he has to go and she responds, "Do you remember what that job was like for you? I'm not agreeing for you to go back." Um, this is not exactly a career choice for him. Haven't you noticed that the world is ending, lady? He tells her that they will be thrown out of the compound if he doesn't go and then she concedes. He gives her a one-way cell phone transmitter and says he will call her once a day.

He hugs Connie. Tells Tomas to take care of the girls while he's gone (sweet, but this movie seems so conscientious about roles that I'm almost surprised that line is in there) and Grace is asleep, naturally, so he doesn't wake her -- which I think is risky, since they may never meet again and maybe she would have liked to say goodbye to her dad. Then, again, knowing her laconic ways, maybe not. He whispers goodbye into her hair as she slumbers, promising to return.

As they are flying to South Korea, knowing that they are the world's last hope for survival, the doctor thinks that's a good time to try out his metaphors. He says that nature is like any other serial killer, she likes to leave behind clues. The answer often lies in something simple that you overlooked. When they land, they have to fight off zombies, the army officers call them "zekes" to get to the base. In the battle, the doctor freaks, shoots himself and dies almost before they're in. So, any chance that he might lead them to a solution seems to be gone as well. The soldiers mock his ineptitude, but Gerry points out that the guy was just 23 years old and he didn't have to risk his life to come there. He volunteered. Well, maybe Thierry threatened to throw him to the wolves if he didn't help the UN as well, so I don't know how much free will the doctor had, but R.I.P.

The base was attacked and most of the men there were turned into zekes and killed. You can see their decomposed bodies imprisoned in cells. The army officers chained the ones they captured up. Even though they're mostly ashes, they are still flashes of movement from them. They are truly "undead." The army officer tells Gerry that shooting them in the chest only slows them down, but if you get them in the head, that seems to disable them. They like to burn them, if possible, just to be sure. He also tells Gerry they are attracted to sound, so they try to be very quiet, so as not to make them swarm. Gerry says it seems to take 12 seconds to convert from human to zombie, but the soldiers say they've seen it take up longer, 10 minutes, even longer. I, of course, feel this is a plot point. I think that they will think someone is safe and is not going to turn into a zombie, but it will turn out that they were wrong. This doesn't happen. Maybe they just through that into the script as a red herring. Still, I wonder why Gerry acts like he didn't hear that part. He still goes around thinking that it only takes 12 seconds to convert and he acts on that assumption, to what I feared would be his peril.

The officers call out their home towns hoping Gerry can tell them if their cities and families are safe in the United States. Gerry has to admit that few places at home are safe.

Inside a cell, he seems one officer chained up who is not a zombie. The other soldiers think he's crazy, but there seems to be a method to his madness. He was at a place where they managed to keep the zombies at bay. He is actually the first person to use the word 'zombie" when describing the monsters to Gerry. At the UN, Thierry and his people didn't seem to have a name for them. He explains to Gerry that all of them pulled their teeth. If you can't fight, you can't spread the zombie disease. That's why he survived for as long as he did. His mouth, is indeed toothless. But even so his group succumbed to the zombies eventually. One place that is safe is Israel. It's surrounded by walls high enough to keep the zombies out. They can't climb walls. He tells Gerry that it's quite a coincidence that Israel has this defense. Gerry points out that they've been building walls for years. Yes, the man says, but they got them finished just in time for the zombie outbreak. That seems like more than chance.

Gerry decides to head to Israel to see if they have any answers. He gets a volunteer pilot for the treacherous journey. The problem is not the flight, but getting past the zombies to get to and from the plane. They need some men from the base to help them fuel. A few guys volunteer. One gives Gerry his class ring to take back to his family. He thinks Gerry has a greater chance of returning home than he does. As they head to the plane, heavily armed, they are trying to make as little noise as possible, because noise attracts the zombies. Halfway there, Gerry's phone rings. It's Karin. The zombies hear and start attacking. Gerry just barely makes it onto the plane. One of the officers is bitten. Oh no, he's a zeke he realizes. His men tell him to let him know when he is ready for them to shoot him, before the worst happens. He says, rather matter-of-factly, "I got this one" and he shoots himself. The lack of tears and grief make the moment more poignant. It's reminiscent of MASH when they learned that Henry Blake had been killed and they had to keep on operating.

In Israel, zombies clamor outside of the wall, but the occupants are safe inside. They are even letting people from neighboring countries in. The leader tells Gerry the more humans he saves, the fewer he will have to fight as zombies. How did they know to build the wall, Gerry asks. He says that they heard a rumor of zombies long ago. And a practical man like him believed it? Well, they didn't believe the holocaust was going to happen in the 1930s. They didn't believe the Arab fights would cause the death and destruction that they did. History showed Israel that skepticism doesn't pay. The leader was one of 10 men on the council. If 9 of them believed something, it was the 10th person's job to take the opposite viewpoint and that's what he did. He started defending Israel as if zombies did exist, although the 9 other council members thought they didn't.

Meanwhile, feeling warm and cozy inside their wall, the citizens are marching and singing. Thick-headed Gerry doesn't think to tell them what he knows about zombies -- that they love noise. Outside the wall the zombies are building a human (well, inhuman) pyramid, getting higher and higher as they stack up against the wall, climbing on top of each other. Eventually, zombies are able to run and use each other as stairs and began to topple over the wall. Suddenly, all peace evaporates. It happens in an instant. There's a stampede and war breaks out as they fight the zombies. Gerry wanted a plane to leave Israel and continue his search for the first person who became a zombie and the leader didn't want to give it to him, but once he's in the middle of a zombie invasion he quickly changes his mind and gives orders to get Gerry out of there.

The zombies move jerkily and turn to menace humans in an instant, just like the ones in Michael Jackson's Thriller. Gerry sees a young soldier bitten. He begins the 12 second count and reaches out and hacks off her bitten arm before she converts. She yowls in agony. Thanks a lot, buster. How'd he know cutting off her arm would work, she asks him later. He says he didn't. It was just a good guess, at which point she should have just shot him. Her name is Segen. He asks if it's her first name or last and she refuses to say. "Just Segen." Well, whatever.

I am sure Segen is going to be one of the people they thought was safe, but who turns into a zombie later, after the 12 second mark has passed. Luckily for Gerry, that didn't happen. They get onto an airplane that was trying to land in Israel, but seeing the raging zombies changes its flight course. Gerry has flashbacks of the herding zombies completely ignoring some people, like the drunken homeless man, a thin boy in the street. I'm not sure, but I think he looks at his own daughter in the supermarket grocery cart, but I don't know how she fits in with the others. He thinks he knows why the zombies didn't attack them. He tells the pilot to take the plane to the World Health Organization (WHO). Suddenly, there's a rumbling and a zombie breaks out of a closet in the plane. Who put him there and wouldn't someone think to mention that he was inside and that, maybe, that door should be guarded. When the stewardess was telling everyone how to use a life vest, she might just want to have pointed out the zombie in the locker. The zombie bites and suddenly everyone else is turning Z.

Gerry sees no other way out. Segen has a grenade and they throw it. Part of the plane explodes and they crash. He and Segen seem to be the only survivors. What are the odds? Their plane landed only a few miles from the WHO, so they walk there.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Thierry has heard that Gerry's plane crash and he is presumed dead. He doesn't waste any time telling the Lanes they have to leave the compound. It is for essential military personnel only and since Gerry died trying to save the world at Thierry's request, they have to kick his family to the curb pronto. Karin doesn't remonstrate with Thierry. Hopefully, her silence and blank eyes were enough to rain the shame down, but alas it probably wasn't. Guilt is never the punishment it should be. Karin and the kids are packed onto a refugee plane.

At WHO, Gerry is chained up. He was injured in the plane crash. They removed the metal shard from his stomach and he has been unconscious for three days. He explains who he is. Segen was not unconscious and I don't know why she didn't explain to WHO that Gerry was a good guy, but once he makes a phone call to Theirry they start to trust him. Gerry learns that his family has been sent to Nova Scotia and, somehow, manages not to call Thierry every name in the book. He knows his family is not safe, no matter what they claim.

The WHO staff has been badly reduced. Many of them are zombies, which the humans have tracked in some of the labs. Gerry tells WHO his theory is that the zombies don't bite sick people. If they sense you are terminally ill, they avoid you. The WHO scientists say there is precedence for this in nature. Predators sometimes don't prey on diseased animals. They somehow know that they might endanger themselves by doing so. So, what if the zombies are the same, how is that an anecdote for the zombie bite. It's not an anecdote Gerry says, but it will be camouflage. If everyone is sick the zombies won't bother attacking them. It won't get rid of the zombies, but it might stop the creation of new ones. Do they have any fatal substances there that Gerry can use to test that theory on the zombies. Yes, they have meningitis, cancer cells, all sorts of fatal stuff, but it's in another building and that building is full of zombies. They will have to go over the skybridge to get there. Segen, Gerry and one of the doctors grab weapons and go and the other doctors seal the skybridge after them. They have to get to one particular vault where all the dangerous cells are kept.

They end up accidentally making noise, which attracts all the zombies to them. Although, even in the dormant (non-attack) phase zombies are still moving. Don't they knock into things and make a lot of noise themselves? I don't know why they don't run to each other. Humans aren't the only ones who create a clamor. Segen and the doctor run through the skybridge and back to safety. Gerry uses the distraction to get into the vault he needs. But for some insane reason he leaves his weapon outside the vault. He didn't even need to use both hands to get in. He needn't have put down his weapon at all. Yet, that stupid gesture is what the plot needed for a climatic ending. So, unarmed he goes into the vault. There's a lone zombie outside pounding to get in. There's only one way out. He injects himself with an unknown, but lethal injection. I think he could have doused himself in the deadly stuff like cologne. Wouldn't the zombie just have smelled death and sickness on him and steered clear. Why did Gerry actually have to inject it bodily? To heighten the stakes I guess.

Gerry injects himself, writes a sign for the doctors who can see him on a monitor. It says, "Tell my family I love them." The doctors visibly flinch in premature mourning. Corny yes, but I like it too and I start crying myself. If Gerry's theory is incorrect, he will die either way. If the zombies don't get him, the deadly injection will.

Gerry opens the door between himself and the zombie and waits. The zombie sniffs him, but doesn't attack. He walks right past him as if he's not there. The doctors watching on the monitor are incredulous. Gerry scoops up a bunch of the deadly bacteria and heads out towards the skybridge where dozens of zombies wait. They let him walk right through. Back with the WHO doctors, Gerry gets an antidote. He is reunited with his family in Nova Scotia, but we're told it's not a happy ending. It's just the beginning. They haven't cured the zombie problem, they've just kept it at bay. People receive shots that trick the zombies into not attacking, but it hasn't gotten rid of all of them. It hasn't helped them find the origin of the disease and kill it at its root. They're only safe for now.

I hear this movie is quite a departure from the book. Would I have liked the book more or less? I wonder, but not enough to actually pick up the book and find out. The film though was fast paced and mostly satisfying. Dumb moves were made, but not nearly as much as you see in most action movies. The honest reactions, along with Gerry's determined integrity kept the movie grounded, no matter how many mountains of CGI zombies scurried like ants. When the response is genuine, it doesn't matter how unrealistic or undead the threat they pose, the fight is still worth winning. And watching.