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POPCORN AND A (WORLD)VIEW

Israel plays role in 'World War Z'

Exclusive: Drew Zahn examines Brad Pitt's end-of-the-world thriller

Week after week in this column, I make the point that there’s no such thing as “just a movie.” As an art form, films necessarily either reveal or promote the worldview of their makers – and usually both.

Discerning audiences should therefore identify the values and messages of these worldviews in order to thoughtfully evaluate them, rather than allow them to merely soak in, swaying us toward opinions and beliefs that we might not otherwise adopt. As evidenced by the radically different political opinions of those who rely on talk radio versus those who rely on the nightly TV news for information, people’s minds are moved and made by the entertainment choices they make.

Of course some movies are more overtly apologetic in their worldviews than others. Watch anything starring Matt Damon in the last few years, for example, and you’ll find the political agenda nearly suffocating.

Thankfully, the highly entertaining and edge-of-your-seat thriller “World War Z” is not such a preachy film. In fact, it’s so agenda-free, so purely entertainment, it almost defies my “no such thing as just a movie” mantra!

Almost.

The story follows a retired United Nations worker living in Philadelphia when a worldwide epidemic breaks out, turning waves of humans into hordes of crazed, flesh-eating “zombies,” for lack of a better word. It only takes seconds to go from alive to undead, so the plague spreads like wildfire.

Our hero and family man is suddenly called back into action, torn between protecting those he loves and leaving them to track down the source of this plague before it consumes the globe.

As a film, “World War Z” was a pleasant surprise and a solid value for the entertainment dollar. It’s pacing is masterful, alternating touching scenes of character development with heart-pounding tension, action and thrills. There is never a dull moment in this movie, but there are plenty of moments where the audience sits in perfect silence, waiting on baited breath for the next clash of action. At the same time, the action is never so constant that it creates sensory overload. Well done.

This isn’t an Oscar candidate, necessarily, for the acting is decent and believable, but nothing special. Still, it never distracts from the adrenaline-laced story, and that’s a rare compliment.

One might criticize the movie’s script or plotline as not being particularly complicated – no big twists or surprises – but that’s not as necessary when the director keeps up the roller-coaster pace. Audiences should like this film.

Discerning audiences should, too.

There’s very little agenda here, and the film’s protagonist models solid virtues, like love and commitment to his family, compassion for the suffering and self-sacrifice for the good of others. The movie mostly models people placed in an impossible situation and still responding with kindness, even civility as civilization collapses around them. It even ends on a hopeful note, appealing to our better instincts.

I have to note, especially in the first few moments of the film, you can catch a taste of a leftist, Hollywood worldview seeping through (as you’d expect, frankly), as the movie clangs the “global warming” bell for a few moments and definitely has a pro-United Nations feels to it (although that may be merely a function of the protagonist being a U.N. worker).

Curiously, however, the leftist worldview takes a backseat when the film’s story takes the action to Jerusalem.

The left is a breeding ground for pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel sentiment, quick as it is to swallow the lies of effective propagandists painting Israel as the “Western imperialist occupation” of Arab land. History, of course, reveals a very different reality, but facts rarely get in the way of a good “victim” story for most liberals.

And for a brief moment, it appears as if “World War Z” is going to take a wild, anti-Israel swing, as a CIA agent accuses the Jewish state of knowing about the zombie outbreak ahead of time and protecting itself while the world burns.

Without giving too much away, however, rather than painting Israel as some sort of genocidal snake, “World War Z” ends up revealing the Jewish state as a glowing, if tragic, paragon of compassion and good will.

Are these major themes in the film? No, they’re really not. World politics is remarkably downplayed in the movie so we can simply follow the heroic protagonist fight the impossible odds and try to save the day. The pervading worldview is still there, for both good and ill, but the story trumps it all and makes “World War Z,” in summary, an exciting and thrilling summer film without much of an agenda of any kind.

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