Munich - Review
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Introduction From Director Steven Spielberg; Munich The Team The Mission.
STEVEN Spielberg may just have delivered one of the coldest films of his career with Munich, a bold, brutal but utterly compelling look at terrorism that’s based on real events.
The movie begins with the kidnap and murder of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 Munich Olympics – a tournament dubbed ‘The Olympics of Peace and Joy’ – by the Palestinian terrorist group, Black September.
It then follows a crack team of assassins as they track down and kill those who may have been responsible on the secret orders of the Israeli government.
The events in question are based upon George Jonas’ book, Vengeance, yet remain shrouded in controversy. To this day, Israel denies ever sanctioning such a hit team and political figures from both sides continue to question the film’s validity.
Yet Spielberg deliberately refrains from taking sides, opting instead to let the events speak for themselves. He is more content to explore the psychological effects of the violence on the men exacting the revenge, while forcing viewers to arrive at their own conclusions.
The hit team is led by Eric Bana’s Mossad agent, Avner Kauffman, and includes Ciaran Hinds and Daniel Craig. At first they are honoured to be carrying out such a task but as the mission takes its toll, they begin to question the guilt of those they have been sent to eliminate and the reliability of the evidence that incriminates them.
The stakes only get higher when they too become targets and find themselves cast adrift in a world with very few allies and very little trust.
If Munich has a message, it’s that violence only begets more violence. There is no simple answer to terrorism as the escalating killings show.
Spielberg’s protagonists are neither heroes nor villains, merely men who have been given a job which they carry out to the best of their ability.
The effect of their mission is convincingly portrayed by all of the cast but Bana and Hinds, in particular, manage to convey the mounting sense of fear that begins to manifest itself within the hit team, as well as the suspicion that not every target is legitimate.
Spielberg also punctuates proceedings with some very tense set-pieces involving the placement of bombs or the double-cross of colleagues.
It means that audiences are likely to feel as edgy and paranoid as Kauffman during the film’s final stages, while asking their own questions as well.
What’s more, the director offers very little in the way of hope, concluding his movie with a shot of the Twin Towers after having previously explored America’s involvement in some of the assassinations.
It is a very pessimistic conclusion that is far darker than either Schindler’s List or Saving Private Ryan and which ensures that Munich isn’t merely an exploration of events that are confined to any one period – rather perhaps the beginning of our present situation.
The only time Spielberg really mis-steps is during a somewhat gratuitous sex scene late on, which feels misguided, and in the film’s running length, which unnecessarily extends to 160 minutes.
But that’s a small price to pay for what will surely become one of the cinematic talking points of the year.
It marks yet another triumph for Spielberg that is made all the more remarkable for its continued political relevance.
Running time: 160 minutes