Glasgow on Film: An Update

New Look

If you’ve visited this blog before you’ll notice a bit of a change. After putting off for ages what I thought would be a long and complex task, a few clicks on the WordPress control panel gave Glasgow on Film a bit of a makeover. I think it looks a tiny bit more stylish now, but more importantly I think it will be easier on the reader’s eye (the previous all-orange background was maybe a bit much).

Summer’s Here (Kind of)

My posts have again become less frequent than I’d like them to be, but that’s something I aim to work on as there is plenty more of Glasgow’s film story to tell. In fact, it’s a story that keeps growing arms and legs so I really should keep up!

While I’ve got a significant catalogue of well established Glasgow-set films waiting to be written about (God Help the Girl and That Sinking Feeling among those I have viewed and prepared notes on), lots of things that set our great city apart from many of its peers have been popping up so far this summer…

pacinoI like to keep a tally on here of the big Hollywood names to visit Glasgow (another seemingly endless list with plenty more tales to be told) and this roll of honour added a big hitter in May when the legendary Al Pacino appeared at the Clyde Auditorium. This wasn’t a highly guarded film shoot or a private getaway, but an up close and personal opportunity for a Glaswegian audience to hear the star talk to them about his career.

Last month also saw the cinema release of Spooks: The Greater Good, the unexpected spin-off from one of my favourite television series. This wasn’t so big a story for Glasgow but – you know me – I like a good mention of our town on the big screen and this movie delivered that more than once in a dramatic scene.

Look out in future for full “Glasgow’s Global Visitors” and “Cameo Appearance” posts on these two snippets. I wanted to finish by looking in more detail at a couple of bigger recent stories relating to Glasgow and film…

The Legend of Barney Thomson

Robert Carlyle’s directorial debut opened the Edinburgh International Film Festival last week, and this is a movie I am very much looking forward to seeing. With an impressive cast that includes Carlyle himself, Emma Thompson, Ray Winstone, Martin Compston, Tom Courtenay and Stephen McCole, the dark comedy looks fun and riotous. As you will see in the trailer below it wears Glasgow distinctly on its sleeve too. A review post will follow at a later date, including my own experience as an extra for a day on the film. (We’ll soon find out if I made the final cut – no barber pun intended).

Florence Foster Jenkins

This was one that came out of the blue on Friday night. I’d actually gone to bed and was just scrolling through Twitter when Daily Record journalist Bev Lyons’ Tweet about a Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant movie filming in Glasgow caught my eye. After initially resisting curiosity I was soon fully dressed again and in the car to Hillhead’s Kersland Street, which had been transformed into 1940s New York.

Bev Lyons’ article confirmed that Stephen Frears’ latest biopic – about American socialite Florence Foster Jenkins – had relocated from its main Liverpool base for the day to shoot some scenes in the Dear Green Place. Whether Streep was present in Glasgow or not is unconfirmed, but press photography showed Hugh Grant in Hillhead and earlier at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – reportedly doubling for Carnegie Hall. It would appear that this day and night shoot was a flying visit as no further filming in Glasgow has been reported. I did take a couple of pictures on Kersland Street – not the sharpest as I had flash off for obvious reasons, but you get the general idea…

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Stunt Double: Beautiful Creatures

beautiful creaturesI’ve classed this 2000 film under the “Stunt Double” category as – despite no location being named on screen and some of the backdrops clearly being Glasgow – I got the impression that the city is not the intended setting for the story. Instead there are references to the generic “Eastern Infirmary” and “Eastern and District” police, although at one point “Corstorphine” – the Edinburgh suburb – can be glimpsed on an address written on an envelope. Wherever Beautiful Creatures is meant to be located, the film-makers have set out to portray a rather dismal environment – sets such as offices and train carriages looking dated for the turn of the millennium and ominous “Curfew After Dark” posters are displayed around town.

beautiful creatures 2Glasgow locations that appear in the film include the Red Road flats and the Robert Biggar pawnbrokers shop on Argyle Street, while the city’s skyline can also be seen in the distance from the Erskine Bridge at one point.

The story itself focuses on two abused women – Dorothy (Susan Lynch) and Petula (Rachel Weisz) – who find themselves teaming up and carrying out an elaborate ransom plot after Dorothy saves Petula from an attack by her boyfriend Brian (Tom Mannion) and accidentally kills the man in the process.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the film has a not very subtle “all men are bastards” subtext to it – as well as dealing with their evil and twisted boyfriends, Dorothy and Petula have to contend with Alex Norton as a pervy and corrupt detective inspector that’s a million miles from his straight laced Taggart character and Maurice Roëves in typical menacing form as Brian’s older brother. Even minor characters – the old man giving weird chat to a child on the beach and the garage attendant who spends his days looking at porn – are flawed individuals.

Even as a male viewer though I did manage to appreciate some genuinely funny lines which, combined with the bleak surroundings and plenty of blood and violence, successfully earn Beautiful Creatures its dark comedy tag.

 

 

Stunt Double: The Decoy Bride

This 2011 film has two settings, but a number of different filming locations. The opening scene is meant to be in Paris, but the majority of the film is set in the fictional Outer Hebrides island of Hegg.

Locations used included Dumfries, Argyll and the Isle of Man – the latter due to funding from Isle of Man Film. Filming also took place in and around Glasgow, with Film City Glasgow used for part of the production. In terms of external filming I personally could only identify one Glasgow location clearly – this was the cloisters of the University of Glasgow in a scene near the beginning, when Alice Eve’s character chases a paparazzo from her Parisian wedding.

Eve features as Hollywood A-lister Lara Tyler, whose marriage to David Tennant’s author James Arber the world’s media are desperate to cover. After a series of failed attempts at a private ceremony, Lara chooses remote Hegg – the setting of James’ best-selling book – as the perfect location for a wedding that no-one will find. Needless to say all does not go to plan and after a tip off the couple and Lara’s P.As (Michael Urie and Sally Phillips) are having to contend with hordes of journalists and eccentric locals. Local girl Katie – played by Kelly Macdonald – is drafted in as a “decoy bride” to throw the media off the scent of the actual nuptials, but after a series of mishaps and some bonding time between James and Katie the lead characters start to re-evaluate their lives.

The Decoy Bride is not a film I would have set out to watch were it not for the Glasgow connections, and it didn’t exactly win me over by the end. Some of it seems to drag on a bit and I felt that the storyline would have been better suited to a Sunday night three-parter on BBC One. That said, it was not without its rays of light – Sally Phillips co-wrote the film as well as appearing in it, and her strong comedy credentials do shine through with some genuinely funny lines and a couple of other amusing moments. For me the moment I started to relax and enjoy the film just a little bit was when a couple of the local old ladies reveal the souvenirs they have made – pebbles with faces crudely drawn on them, retailing at £1 or £1.50 “with hair”; Kelly Macdonald also raises a smile with her attempt to deliver wedding vows in a false American accent.

The UK premiere for The Decoy Bride took place at the 2012 Glasgow Film Festival.

Stunt Double: Filth

A few days ago I posted here about the picture postcard moments of Sunshine on LeithFilth – also released in 2013 – turns that image of Edinburgh on its head, all thanks to the mind of Irvine Welsh – from whose book the movie was adapted.

But once again “Edinburgh” isn’t all that it seems, as Glasgow stood in for the capital in filming of a number of scenes. We will come to the Glasgow locations in a moment, but what of the film itself?

The story follows James McAvoy’s Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson in the run up to Christmas – he’s vying for a promotion, has to handle the case of a murdered Japanese student… and appears to have lost the plot. For anyone, like me, who hadn’t read the book the trailers suggested an extra sweary tale of a bent cop but this is far more than that. There are persistent moments of madness – most of them coming from DS Robertson – throughout. Not so much of the rock and roll, but plenty of sex and drugs.

I think the main talking point of Filth however has to be the cast. Had the Better Together politicians been able to get this lot on board for its campaign, then the outcome of September’s independence referendum may well have been a foregone conclusion – for it is a “Best of British” ensemble that works incredibly well together. McAvoy is joined by many of Scotland’s finest, including Martin Compston, Iain De Caestecker, Kate Dickie, Emun Elliott, Shirley Henderson, Gary Lewis, John Sessions, Jonathan Watson and Jordan Young. Yet on top of that list there is still room for some of the most respected English names in acting today – Jamie Bell (now no stranger to shooting in Glasgow), Jim Broadbent, Joanne Froggatt, Eddie Marsan and Imogen Poots. Oh… and there’s an American for good measure too – David Soul in one brief and bizarre sequence.

Many of the above play distinctly against type – McAvoy in particular excels as the twisted mess that is Robertson. Gary Lewis is oafish and Iain De Caestecker is a million miles from his studious characters in Young James Herriot and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And I may be alone in this, but usually I find Jim Broadbent’s performances a bit “samey” – it’s amazing what putting on an Australian accent can do though.

So what about Glasgow’s role in Filth?

Among the locations we see are Park Circus, where Robertson’s house is located, and James Watt Street – where he is taken into the building that houses GTW Storage. The flat in which De Caestecker’s character Ocky stays is portrayed on the outside by a large Cardonald block of flats, but on the inside by the atrium of Sauchiehall Street’s Beresford building.

Stunt Double: Sunshine on Leith

You don’t have to like musicals to enjoy Sunshine on Leith… and I’m not even going to add “…but it helps” to that, because it genuinely is good fun whatever your usual tastes are. It is not show tunes and jazz hands; it is not an oddly chosen historical or biblical subject (for example Evita or Jesus Christ Superstar) translated into song – adapted from Stephen Greenhorn’s stage musical of the same name, it is a tale of ordinary folk featuring the songs of The Proclaimers. And who doesn’t like The Proclaimers?

Revolving mainly around the love lives of friends Davy and Ally, their girlfriends Yvonne and Liz (also Davy’s sister) and Davy and Liz’ parents Rab and Jean, we follow the characters’ ups and downs as the boys return from army duty in Afghanistan, Rab and Jean prepare for their silver wedding anniversary and Liz considers making a big change to her life. Some of the dialogue can be a little cheesy in places and a couple of arguments that the younger couples have are a bit on the soap opera side of melodramatic – but one could say the same about the likes of Grease and West Side Story, and they have justifiably cemented themselves as classics of the genre.

The characters are all very likeable and portrayed as such by George MacKay (Davy), Kevin Guthrie (Ally), Antonia Thomas (Yvonne), Freya Mavor (Liz), Peter Mullan (Rab) and Jane Horrocks (Jean). Mullan in particular impresses – more commonly associated with grittier films and roles, he seems comfortable in this setting and has a good chemistry with Horrocks.

Without wanting to get all sentimental though, both songs and cast are pipped at the post for the title of star of the show – that has to go to Scotland. The country has a rich and varied film history, but more often than not features are about swinging claymores, gang warfare or – thanks to another famous son of Leith – drug culture. Sunshine on Leith is upbeat and while we may not spend our days singing and dancing on the streets it portrays a more familiar representation of the society many of us are used to than some well known Scottish features. This is particularly evident in the final scene, where a crowd joins Davy and Yvonne outside Edinburgh’s National Gallery of Scotland for a rendition of I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – where shop assistants, office workers, builders, police officers, schoolchildren, skaters, tourists, pensioners and… er… a living statue join in the fun.

The National Gallery finale is just one of the moments where Edinburgh looks great in this film. The capital’s streets have never looked so good in cinema and there are some sweeping aerial shots – of both daytime and night-time – that would have VisitScotland salivating.

So did the producers come to Glasgow to shoot rougher edges of town? No – the lights of both Cresswell Lane and Candleriggs twinkle elegantly as the young couples go on dates in what is meant to be Edinburgh. Jean works in the aforementioned National Gallery of Scotland, but the interior used for filming is actually that of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Sunshine on Leith uses more Glasgow locations than many films – including those actually set in the city – and other places we see include The Griffin (on Bath Street, just across from The King’s Theatre – which was one of the first venues to host the stage version of the musical) and Saracen’s Head (on Gallowgate) pubs, and Woodside Hall (which doubles as Leith Dockers Social Club).

There is also a cheeky little acknowledgement of Glasgow in the film. In one scene where Liz and Yvonne are helping Jean to find a dress (in another city location – Halo on Dumbarton Road) for her anniversary party, the latter asks Yvonne where she normally goes for shopping. Yvonne says “Glasgow”, to which Jean replies “That’s a bit desperate!”

Stunt Double: Clive Barker’s Book Of Blood

As has occasionally been the case before, this is a movie I would not have heard of were it not for my researching for this blog. I would say it is a curious contribution to Scottish film though, and one that succeeded in keeping me on the edge of my seat on a dark and rainy night.

With little knowledge of what was to come in the film, the opening scene did not fill me with confidence. It was a trivial detail that had me concerned – the setting is a rural roadside cafe, where principal character Simon (Jonas Armstrong) is sitting; an older waitress appears with a jug of black coffee to offer him a refill and I found myself thinking “what am I about to watch?!”. Was this effectively going to be an American horror movie clumsily transplanted into Scotland without any cultural adaptations? I’m pressing this coffee refill thing a lot I know, but it just seemed like a very out of place American trope – like a corrupt sheriff or a local crazy who “saw things in ‘Nam”.

Thankfully when the story moves retrospectively to Edinburgh – where paranormal researcher Mary (Sophie Ward) is investigating an old house along with Simon and Paul Blair’s Reg – the film becomes a lot more comfortable in its surroundings. That said, the movie is certainly more American than Scottish – or indeed British – in its overall style. Scotland is no stranger to horror films, but I can’t recall any features set in the country that are so deeply dark and supernatural in equal measures – Dog Soldiers, for example, has a lot of black comedy in it; in The Wicker Man the horror is delivered by living, breathing humans. There are touches of many Hollywood horrors in Clive Barker’s Book of Blood, from Poltergeist to A Nightmare On Elm Street, and some exceedingly gory and violent moments.

As mentioned above, Edinburgh is the setting for the majority of the film and with some heavy rain and ominous skies the familiar streets and skyline become an excellent backdrop to the macabre story. The University of Glasgow appears throughout the film as Mary’s place of work, although it is implied that the building is in the capital. When Simon is first introduced to Mary at a lecture he tells her that he has “just transferred from Strathclyde”.

Stunt Double: World War Z

Back in June 2013 I reviewed World War Z here immediately after viewing it in the cinema, however it has always been my intention to give the film its own “Stunt Double” post on the blog in line with other such productions.

There’s not a huge amount to add to what I already wrote about the movie in my review, but to summarise Glasgow’s screen presence in World War Z: As has been well documented, the city doubles for Philadelphia and while CGI is employed to increase some building heights to American standards, landmarks like City Chambers and the Cenotaph remain untouched and instantly recognisable; What starts as a seemingly innocent case of traffic congestion on Cochrane Street descends in to chaos – reeling from an explosion in the direction of Buchanan Street, Brad Pitt’s Gerry rarely has time to draw breath before an out of control bin lorry violently clears the road of vehicles before coming to an abrupt halt at the corner of George Square; Gerry drives his petrified family through the path that has been cleared by the truck, swerving into the square where a moment of distraction leads to their Volvo’s collision with an ambulance; the family evacuate the car and see first-hand the carnage of people being attacked by the undead; Gerry commandeers an RV on George Street and the family make their break for freedom; as the military declares that Philadelphia has fallen we see a final, striking, aerial shot of George Square teeming with running figures.

Two updates that I do have to provide about World War Z from my perspective are:

–          My review was not particularly positive – largely due to very high expectations and some disappointment about the stark difference between the film and the book. However I have watched the movie again – more than once – and it has grown on me. While the main set pieces perhaps don’t sit too comfortably alongside each other, they do in the main each possess good individual qualities – from the classic American action of Philadelphia to the family drama on the aircraft carrier and the edge of the seat tension in the World Health Organisation facility.

–          I attended a Glasgow Film Festival 2014 event entitled “Film/TV Locations: Scotland on Your Screen” at the Centre for Contemporary Arts. The discussion, chaired by Nicola Balkind, covered many productions from both the small and big screen but due to its so far unsurpassed scale World War Z was naturally a key talking point – particularly with panellists Jennifer Reynolds (film commissioner at Glasgow Film Office) and Brodie Pringle (locations manager at Creative Scotland). Ms Reynolds introduced a Glasgow Film Office video about World War Z – now used to help sell the city as a filming location – which highlighted the numbers associated with the production’s spell in the city: 12 filming days, 94 local crew employed, over 500 extras employed, over 100 action vehicles, 14 city centre streets closed, 8,500 bed nights, £3.6 million spent locally. Furthermore it was stated that a subsequent survey of businesses in the area affected saw the majority report a positive impact on trade, while only five complaints regarding inconvenience were received. And the Glasgow World War Z experience was also credited as directly influencing the Fast & Furious 6 team to film in the city.

Stunt Double: Cloud Atlas

Fresh from seeing it as part of last year’s Glasgow Film Festival, I posted in February 2013 about Cloud Atlas. That post summed up my positive feelings about the film and I’m pleased to say that I’ve since watched it again and found it equally enjoyable the second time around. cloud atlas 1

For anyone who hasn’t seen Cloud Atlas I’ll summarise, or rather, not for the first time I’ll rely on the DVD’s blurb to ensure I give an explanation of the plot that’s as clear as possible! “Tom Hanks and Halle Berry lead an all-star cast in interwoven tales as time shifts between past, present and future. As characters reunite from one life to the next, their actions generate consequences…”cloud atlas 6cloud atlas 7cloud atlas 5

Cloud Atlas was filmed in 2011, mainly in Germany, Majorca and the UK, with both Glasgow and Edinburgh being used as filming locations – the latter appearing as a period version of itself at some points.cloud atlas 3cloud atlas 2

Glasgow on the other hand took on its most diverse role yet, doubling within the one feature as 1936 Cambridge, 1973 San Francisco and contemporary London.

The brief exterior Cambridge scenes, featuring James D’Arcy as the character Rufus Sixsmith, were filmed on the grounds of the University of Glasgow. The San Francisco scenes had two main hubs where Halle Berry, Keith David and Hugo Weaving filmed scenes: George Street, where the building housing a Premier Inn hotel appeared as the apartment block where Berry’s Luisa Rey lived; and in the Anderston area, particularly on Douglas Street, where the three actors were involved in a dramatic car crash and shoot out scene. Here, CGI was used to cleverly replace the south east of Glasgow with San Francisco Bay – including the Bay Bridge – on the horizon. During one of the segments of the film set in present day London, Jim Broadbent’s Timothy Cavendish is seen to emerge from a building – used here as an exclusive menswear store – on St. Vincent Street. A night-time St. Vincent Lane also appears when a minor character meets a violent end during one other London scene. Finally, Jim Broadbent is seen visiting a red sandstone villa on more than one occasion in the film – this looks undoubtedly like it is in the south side of Glasgow however I have been unable to find any conclusive confirmation of this. Any comments that can clarify this point would be most welcome.

Stunt Double: Fast & Furious 6

I have to admit that before watching Fast & Furious 6 for the purpose of this blog I hadn’t (and still haven’t) seen any of its predecessors in the franchise since watching the original The Fast And The Furious at Muirend cinema in 2001 – incidentally my final visit to that southside landmark. It’s not that I didn’t like the film, but my appetite for that particular storyline was satisfied with one instalment and I really just wasn’t that fussed about seeing the sequels. Still, the concept clearly works for many people – 12 years, six films with a seventh in the pipeline, each release going to cinema (not straight to DVD) with a decent amount of fanfare and decent box office returns all support this. Fast & Furious 6 alone reportedly brought in over $695 million worldwide during its big screen outing. Helpfully for out of touch viewers like myself the past 12 years of Fast and Furious action are neatly summarised in a montage of clips during the opening credits of Fast & Furious 6.fast and furious 4

This latest chapter begins with the main characters settling down to simpler lives with the money they have made in previous outings, but – as is the case with so many great action movies – being called upon to put their unrivalled driving skills to use in one more job, this time with high stakes for them personally and for the world as a whole.fast and furious

I would say overall that I enjoyed this movie, but my review probably features praise and criticism in equal measures. The positives include an ensemble cast that work well together – they gel to make a convincing team. There is some good humour too, and in particular Tyrese Gibson as Roman delivers much of this. The film also makes very good use of the London setting, from impressive views of the Shard and the Gherkin glinting in the sunrise to grubby garages under railway arches. It’s a Hollywood production that nearly manages to avoid clichés in portraying London, but lets itself down somewhat on that front with the inclusion of a shamelessly snobbish luxury car salesman who has a distinct whiff of Tim Curry’s Home Alone 2 hotel concierge about him. And sticking with clichéd characters, there’s nothing wrong with Luke Evans’ portrayal of villain Owen Shaw, but are there really as many ex-SAS men that have gone bad as the film industry tends to make out? Other criticisms, which had me smirking rather than frowning, were Vin Diesel’s Dominic and Michelle Rodriguez’ Letty in the most ridiculous stunt I’ve ever seen (look out for the bit on the bridge) and a climactic runway scene in which the runway seems to go on forever. Finally there was a bit too much of “This is who I am”/”This is who we are”/”This is who you are” in the script and if all of the other films are full of that I won’t be rushing to see them.fast and furious 2

Fast & Furious 6 is set primarily in London but with action also taking place in locations as varied as Moscow, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Spain. The Spanish segments are set in “Canary Islands, Spain” – perhaps the choice of island is left to the imagination so as not to upset either Gran Canaria or Tenerife (both islands’ authorities are thanked in the credits) by highlighting one over the other – and at a NATO base in Lusitania. A Google search tells me the latter is fictional, and that Lusitania was in fact an ancient Roman Iberian province. Spanish geography issues aside however, what links this blockbuster with Glasgow?fast and furious 3

Glasgow doubles for London during certain points of a key car chase scene early in the film – the scenes were shot in the International Financial Services District during late summer 2012. The stunts are impressive, with Metropolitan Police cars being flipped into the air on Cadogan Street and a BMW being launched through the windows of a purpose built office complex on the Broomielaw. None of the principal actors were present for the Glasgow scenes, although that statement may not be entirely true to anyone who considers the cars to be the stars of these movies. Glasgow wasn’t alone in standing in for London, with Liverpool’s Mersey Tunnel taking part in the same chase scene, while London itself doubles for Moscow at the start of the film – the use of MI5’s distinctive headquarters Thames House as a backdrop for the Russian scene is odd given how familiar this building is through other movies and television programmes.

Somewhat disappointing was the omission of Glasgow (and for that matter Liverpool) from the closing credits of the movie. As mentioned above there are plenty of thanks given to the authorities and citizens of Gran Canaria and Tenerife, but no mention of the organisations in Glasgow who helped pull part of the film together.

Review: World War Z (Contains Spoilers)

Four years ago I picked up a few books for holiday reading from an HMV sale display. One of these, World War Z by Max Brooks, I chucked in my holdall and didn’t give too much thought to – it wasn’t even the first of the books that I read on my trip. But eventually I opened it up, on the beach at Benicassim in Spain, and was instantly gripped. I’ve never completed a book in such a short space of time as I did with World War Z – it instantly became one of my favourite reads.

Three years ago I read that World War Z was to be made into a film. I was excited.

Two years ago rumours had started to appear in Scottish newspapers that scenes from The Dark Knight Rises would be filmed in Glasgow. I went to search for further information on this on the internet and by chance stumbled across a casting agency’s website, stating that they were looking for extras to shoot World War Z in GLASGOW. This seemed too good to be true but within a few days it was confirmed news across the Scottish media and by now I was ecstatic at the thought of my favourite book being adapted into a Hollywood blockbuster made in my city. You will likely know the rest – weeks later the Brangelina circus rolled into town and George Square became like a Universal Studios attraction. And it was amazing.

Last night I went to the Renfield Street Cineworld to see the completed World War Z but left without the satisfaction of 2009, the excitement of 2010 or the ecstasy of 2011. The film may have been in 3D but I’m sorry to say that my feelings were decidedly flat.

There were some positives, which I will come to, but first I – previously the movie’s biggest cheerleader – will attempt to justify my disappointment at the finished article.

Since the cameras started to roll on World War Z, a couple of things became common points for discussion in the film community – one being that the screenplay was looking like bearing little resemblance to the book, and the other being that the production was troubled, with talk of infighting, rewrites and reshoots.

Looking at the book vs movie issue first, adapting World War Z – about humanity’s struggle against hordes of zombies – was always going to be a tall order. The geographical scale of the book is massive, including: multiple American perspectives, from suburbia to the military to the doomed efforts for survival of the rich and famous; detailed accounts of the fall of European cities such as Hamburg and Kiev; tales of battle and survival on all continents in locations including India, Japan and South Africa. The movie misses a trick in portraying the story’s global scale. Outside of the USA, whose own tales from the war are underrepresented, there are scenes set in four more countries – Canada, Israel, South Korea and Wales. The Nova Scotia scene is brief and not worth much discussion, while the Jerusalem segment is – in my opinion – the saving grace of the movie, but this story is owed so much more than the lacklustre sole Asian and European set pieces. In South Korea the action takes place at the U.S. Army’s Camp Humphreys – it all takes place during the dead of night in the pouring rain, a dismal setting and a lazy one – part of the beauty of Brooks’ writing is the detail of the landmarks and landscapes which help the reader picture vividly parts of the world that they may not have been to, but you can barely even see the buildings here. A fleeting glimpse of a Welsh Valleys town is a slight improvement by the time the action reaches the UK but again this lengthy part of the film is confined mainly to the interior of a generic laboratory complex. Some London-based critics were quick to express surprise at the inclusion of Wales in World War Z however the country does feature in the book, more so than England, Northern Ireland and Scotland which are also referenced in print. However Brooks presents a much more interesting scenario of councils reclaiming tourist attraction castles and reverting them to their original roles as fortifications in which the citizens can be protected from the menace outside.

It would of course be impossible to fit the whole world into one film, but part of World War Z‘s problem in achieving this global scale is the style of narrative that the producers have chosen. In the book the UN employee on which Brad Pitt’s movie character Gerry Lane is based travels the world after the deadly conflict and listens to accounts from those affected. In the film however Lane is at the heart of all the action and trotting the globe while it falls around him. Making the film in the present tense was probably the right decision, but basing it on one character was not – I have read so many reviews of World War Z that I forget who said what, however a very sensible comment made by one critic was that this film would have been much better in the style of 2011’s Contagion. Here one story is tied together by the perspectives of different lead characters in different parts of the world. This got me thinking of another film which, while perhaps not as intelligent as either World War Z or Contagion, could have been a better model for the former – 1996’s Independence Day. Like it or not, compare its content to that of World War Z – before the spaceships even arrive the back stories of Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Will Smith and Randy Quaid’s characters in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and New Mexico respectively are a lot richer and better paced than the brief Lane family kitchen table scene that we are shown before all hell breaks loose on George Square.

As I’m starting to move on from locations to actors it seems like a suitable juncture to address the other issue with World War Z – that of its very thinly veiled production problems. The biggest evidence that this was the movie equivalent of the cut and shut Ford Escort at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum is Matthew Fox’s screen time – the actor still best known as lead character Jack Shephard in television’s Lost is perhaps not the biggest star on the planet but for one of the few better known American names in the feature he appears to have less to do and say than an extra in a soap opera. Other actors are underused too. David Morse is very good as the disgraced CIA man being held under arrest in South Korea and he gets much more to say than Fox, but it is still a very brief presence. And what a waste of Peter Capaldi – he gets a decent amount of screen time but it’s probably the most two dimensional performance I’ve seen from him. His character and the other three World Health Organisation doctors in the Welsh compound don’t even get given names.

The other glaring sign of the production problems with World War Z is the near complete omission of scenes shot in Budapest, which were reportedly set in Moscow. By all accounts this should have been a set piece on the scale of Philadelphia and Jerusalem and should have in fact taken the slot that ultimately went to Wales, but the weeks of shooting in the Hungarian capital are ultimately represented by a two second glimpse of battle in a montage scene at the very end of the film.

Talking of Philadelphia and Jerusalem it’s time to get to the positives. I’ll start with Jerusalem – for me this was the standout part of the film and the bit that reflects the epic scale that clearly had been intended for the whole production. Filmed in Malta with landmarks like the Dome of the Rock added in courtesy of CGI, this section starts with the relatively normal hustle and bustle of an ancient Middle Eastern city and concludes with sheer terror as a result of what is probably the movie’s most iconic scene – that of hundreds of zombies turning themselves into a mountain to scale the wall protecting the city. This is an incredibly tragic moment as well – the undead’s call to action in which they slaughter civilians and military across the city is ironically triggered by a moment of harmony that diplomats involved in Middle Eastern affairs could only dream of.

And so we get to the bit that qualifies World War Z for inclusion on this blog – Glasgow’s ten minute appearance as Philadelphia at the start of the film. I personally found the subsequent scenes set in Newark, New Jersey, more atmospheric and more scary, but there is no denying that – whatever faults World War Z has – the action packed fall of Philadelphia was a major coup for Glasgow. As a proud Glaswegian it is stunning to see dramatic aerial shots of George Square on the big screen in 3D, even if it is full of yellow cabs.

For me this World War Z journey has concluded and now I want to see two things. For World War Z I want to see another attempt made at it – this was okay but I can’t get away from feeling that the story could be done more justice. Maybe Hollywood will try again in a few years, or maybe it’s even something for one of the big American networks to adapt for a longer running television series. Brad Pitt recently spoke of potential sequels – turning it into a series of films would have been good but I don’t believe the ending of this first instalment paves the way for a direct follow up. For Glasgow meanwhile I want the city to move on – we had fun with World War Z but it wasn’t our first and won’t be our last brush with Hollywood. World War Z has earned something of a romanticised status in Glasgow but we should not let that overshadow the city’s already rich film-making history or stop us from thinking even bigger about the future.