On the heels of the international Tom Cruise cash cow “War of the Worlds”, uber director Steven Spielberg blessed the world with ” Munich “, a film of the quality and depth one would expect from an industry force with more platinum hits than Elvis. “Munich” encompasses and disgorges visual and emotional power, not to mention the allegorical nature of Tony Kushner and Eric Roth’s scripting of a true life massacre which bludgeons the very sensitive moral fiber of terrorism on racial/religious grounds and post 9/11 culture. Any moviegoer who has seen “The Terminal”, “Catch me if you can” or the dopey, previously mentioned Cruise alien face off may never have guessed that Spielberg made this film if his name hadn’t been the main selling point.
” Munich ” tells a version of the true story surrounding the assassination of 11 Israeli athletes at the hands of Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich , Germany . While this incomprehensibly reprehensible act of violence on Jewish civilians most likely uninvolved in covert anti-Palestinian operations was globally televised, the dialectical, blood thirsty “equal and opposite reaction” which followed was manifest with tenfold callous vehemence and the faces of those administering death were kept far under cover. This counter terrorist venture launched by the Israeli Government involved a five-man task force armed with a long supply of money, contacts, weapons and the freedom to eliminate whomever they pleased as long as they also rid the world of those identified as being behind “Black September”, the terrorist group responsible for Munich.
The son of a famous Israeli secret agent, Avner (Eric Bana) is recruited as the leader of this formidable team, each member of which contains a skill set conducive to the operation at hand. The others, including 007 new jack Daniel Craig as Steve, are a heterogeneous mix of assassins, explosives experts, planners and “clean-up” men who are bound together not only by their immediate calls to duty, but a sincere, though brash and erroneous sense of nationalism.
As they leave whatever lives they were living and are sent off into the world under the guidance of the slick talking official Ephraim (Geoffrey Rush), who glibly veils their future acts of atrocity with words of righteousness, the men are quickly confronted with the inexplicable meaning behind their first murder, and their mission in general. Questions of honor and Israeli pride come up frequently in heated arguments between the group, but Avner gains the most enlightenment of them all.
Bana captures all of the physical, mental and spiritual nuances of this man who, of the group, has been endowed with the boldest, most steadfast courage and love of his country, but who also understands and reveals in his performance the attractor of a sublime knowledge which Avner learns and acquiesces to. Once he becomes trapped in the cyclical interchange of killing between himself and the enemy which will self iterate to infinity, he becomes aware of it and of the absurd nature of the hatred, and the acts spawned from it, which he is an active part of.
While much praise is due to the acting and writing, the directorial vision behind the unrelenting raw brutality of most of the scenes is where the worth of ” Munich ” as a compelling movie and easily accessible anti-terrorism statement, no matter who is behind the terrorizing, can be found. In a disturbing scene where Avner and Steve murder a female Dutch assassin as a personal act of revenge, the woman is shot and blood flows over her naked body as a primal juxtaposition of life, death and sexual imagery taken way out of context. Spielberg deliberately elevates the portrayal of violence to a shockingly real level; bullets, bombs, and their carnage are in no way disposable, anonymous or tools to raise the entertainment factor. Here, the dead left behind are not Palestinians or Israelites; they are humans who, in essence, are defined by the qualifiers of the human species and not by religious affiliations, racial markers or nationalities.
” Munich ” is both timely and timeless as it speaks of issues crippling the control and safety thought to thrive in our time of globalization, and those that, as long as different nations exist and people separate themselves by borders and gods, will inevitably be a part of the human condition. Stripped of its message, this is still an action packed dramatic thriller far worthier of an Oscar than the jejune embellishment and predictable irony of winner “Crash”. Movies don’t get much better than this.
Steven Spielberg (director) / Tony Kushner, Eric Roth (screenplay), George Jonas (book Vengeance)
CAST: Eric Bana …. Avner
Daniel Craig …. Steve
Ciaran Hinds …. Carl
Mathieu Kassovitz …. Robert
Hanns Zischler …. Hans
Ayelet Zurer …. Daphna
Geoffrey Rush …. Ephraim