- Steven Spielberg
- Reviewed by
- José Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Wednesday, February 15, 2006
In the 1972 Munich Olympics, 11 Israeli athletes were kidnapped and subsequently murdered by Palestinian members of the Black September terrorist group. The Israeli government enlists a group of five ex-Mossad operatives to carry a mission in which they must kill the perpetrators behind the attack. Avner (Eric Bana), a family man with expert credentials, leads the team that includes Steve (Daniel Craig), Carl (Ciaran Hinds), Hans (Hanns Zischler) and Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz), all experts in different areas. Their initial contact is Ephraim (Geoffrey Rush), but after the mission starts they’re on their own.
Munich is partly based on George Jonas’ book “Vengeance” and translated to the screen by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth. It is a story, just as the book’s title implies, mainly about the retaliation of one nation towards another for the illusion of power and respect. It touches on the difficult subject of terrorism and paints a cynical portrait in which we’re clearly being told that violence only brings more violence and that the war on terrorism is not going to end anytime soon. If you think the movie has echoes about the current situation of the world you’re right, with Spielberg ending the movie on a rather poignant, effective and in-your-face note.
The story is presented as a thriller that not only takes place in the 70’s, but that feels like a movie of the time. A team of experts is presented with a list of names they must annihilate and we’re in for the ride. There’s international intrigue, back-stabbing, paranoia, unexpected deaths, things that go wrong and most interesting of all, the dehumanization that follows. This is presented in the character of Avner, an intelligent man who can’t commit the first murder he’s presented with, but who eventually becomes used to it and turns into a killing machine. Spielberg presents this transformation in believable manner… until a late sex scene in which he goes too over-the-top. I won’t specify what happens, but I’ll just say that what we see in that scene shouldn’t have been presented that way, it does not work.
There’s been controversy over how the movie depicts both Israelis and Palestinians. I’m not informed about what really happened back then, but I think the movie does not favor one or the other. Both sides do horrific things, both have their own ideologies, both are doing what they think is best for them. Spielberg paints a wide canvas, he wants to open a discussion and he does. I was especially intrigued by a scene in which Avner and a Palestinian have a peaceful conversation about how they both view what they’re doing. You can understand them both even though you may not necessarily agree with what they do. Are they right? Are they wrong? Is an eye-for-an-eye approach the best way to handle situations like these? Is a compromise of values necessary? Where does it morally stand? Does it really make them more powerful? Does it generate respect or hatred or both?
I admire and respect this movie a whole lot, but I’ve got to admit that it’s way too dense and difficult for me to want to see it again. I don’t know what that says about me, but it must also say something about the movie.
Good work by cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and the teams behind the production design and costumes. The movie is impeccable in every technical aspect. And the introduction using real footage intercut with recreated scenes is expertly done.
Eric Bana is excellent. The movie rests on his shoulders and he’s more than capable of handling it. His intense approach and sudden transformation are effective and sincere. Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds, Hanns Zischler, Matthieu Kassovitz, Geoffrey Rush, Michael Lonsdale, Mathieu Amalric, Marie-Josée Croze and Lynn Cohen as Golda Meir are all well cast and they all do a good job.
“We do what the terrorists do.”
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