Reviewing Munich

Munich starts off with the killing of Israeli athletes at the Olympic village in the 1972 games at Munich. The rest of the film tells how a Mossad agent is chosen to carry out a series of assassinations on the 11 Palestinians he is told are responsible for the killings (aka Operation Wrath). Eric Bana’s identity as an Israeli is basically erased as if he never existed and is given a team of specialists to lead. Together they begin finding their targets from scratch and hunt them down all across Europe but along the way they begin to get troubled by their sense of morality as the killings go far beyond what they imagined. The movie is inspired by true events and the book “Vengeance” written as narrated to George Jonas by Juval Aviv, who said he was the leader of the squad. No other sources have verified Aviv’s account. If you watch the movie you might find out why that is.

I don’t want to discuss the controversy surrounding the film, but suffice to say it does not come off as excessively pro-Israel (as one might expect from Spielberg). Sufficed to say it is by default looking at the events from a strictly Israeli point of view, their developing sense of morality and what not. However at the end of the day Eric Bana’s character does begin to question what it is he stood for.

Munich was an event that brought the Israel-Arab conflict to the world stage in the most brutal way possible. Spielberg shows clips of one of the Black September members free in Libya with a hero’s welcome as he explains on TV how for 24 years (at the time) Israel had been killing innocent civilians without anyone paying attention, it is only now with Munich that people have cared. One of the specialists assigned to the assassinations plays the role of questioning the missions, he is not sure if the men he is helping to kill actually had anything to do with Munich and his questions become more complex as the plot develops into a web of conspiracies that involve the CIA, KGB and even the Mossad. In one scene he argues the use of force by saying “do you think we took the land by being nice?” and in another he argues with Bana’s character “do you think you can out run your fears; your doubts?â? Revenge for Munich hardly seems necessary when Palestinian camps were bombed following the incident, killing hundreds of Palestinians, as one scene chooses to argue.

The movie is not so much about who is right and who is wrong although it does start off that way when the Israeli assassins debate the core of the conflict on superficial terms but Spielberg takes it in another direction in the end. What he chooses to outline for the audience is that this is a vicious cycle of retaliations which are the biggest threat to any chance for peace.

Munich I suppose, like the incident, depends greatly on which side of the aisle you are sitting in. Everyone might see it differently. Personal politics aside, I find the lessons of morality very difficult to buy into.

As for the movie itself, Spielberg proves again why he is such a great director by doing what he does; the movie has a very 1970’s feel to it. I was at least content with the idea that they used actual Arabs to act in this movie, it was strange not hearing a barely noticeable accent of some dark skinned walk on lip synching a few words. Eric Bana however stands out with a great performance.

It is (of course) not family friendly at all and also a little too long: running at about 2 hours and 50 minutes.

Bottom Line: 4/5


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