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I was 16 when the Israeli massacre occurred in Munich 33 yrs ago today and this made for TV film is an excellent feature about those events. Made in 76' the film holds up very well. The film does not "hollywoodize" the events in Munich in any way. It tells the story about what happened in 72' in a very straightforward manner. William Holden, nearing the end of his career, is surprisingly good as the Police Chief of Munich. Franco Nero at first seems like a stretch to play an Arab terrorist but he is very good in this picture. The film also shows how the other Olympic activities kept going on while the hostage crises unfolded which now seems impossible to imagine. The bravery of the Israeli athletes, the confusion and ineptitude of the German police, the dbl-speak of the politicians, nothing is overlooked in this movie. If this movie was based on fictional events it would be a very fine film. The fact that the tragic events depicted actually occurred, and that the film so honorably and sensitively captures what happened in Munich means this film is worthy of the highest praise in my view.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Five members of Black September take a dozen or so Israeli athletes
hostage at the Munich Olympics in 1972, killing two others. Led by
Franco Nero, they demand the release of more than two hundred
Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Israel refuses to agree and the
German authorities (William Holden as Schreiber, Chief of the Munich
Police; Shirley Knight as head of Women's Olympic Security; Richard
Basehart as Willie Brandt) are stuck with the nasty task of trying to
resolve the problem themselves. They botch the job. There is a shootout
at the airport and all the hostages are killed, along with some of the
terrorists. The surviving killers are released from jail later, when
other terrorists hijack an airliner and hold seventeen passengers
This is a linear narrative. It illustrates the sorts of glitches that authorities run into when faced with an unanticipated problem. Unanticipated? Hell, inconceivable. No one could any more imagine hostages being taken at the 1972 Olympics than the simultaneous hijacking of four American airliners by terrorists intent to flying them into buildings. The first German to talk to the terrorists, played by Shirley Knight, walked up to the captors and angrily demanded to know, "What IS this rubbish?" (The encounter is shown a little differently in the film.) Until the dimensions of the situation were clarified -- the dead bodies, the impossible demands -- it was treated as a breach of etiquette. No one in a position of power had any idea of the correct course. Nothing like this had ever happened before.
Happily the film shows all the points of view, without slipping into pathos. It doesn't have to be sentimentalized. A mature audience must already be aware of the emotions involved. Yet the documentary approach robs the film of some of its dramatic impact. It isn't helped by the acting. The performances are, with a few exceptions, below the expectable par. Richard Basehart, whose work I've admired elsewhere, has the elan of an animatronic figure in Disneyland.
Still it's good to see the events laid out evenly and schematically. Anthony Quayle is on the spot as an Israeli security adviser. And several Moslems, including an Egyptian and a representative of the Arab League, are brought in to try talking the terrorists out of their plan. The simpler, and more devious approach is to treat the Israelis as humans, demonize the murderers, and show the rest of the world as indifferent, with the Germans perhaps even complicit. This is more or less what "One Day in Munich" does. Spielberg's "Munich" is slanted in the same direction, although it's a mature film. The accidental killing of an innocent Arab waiter in Lillihammer, Norway, is omitted, and so are the death and wounding of several German police officers at the climactic shootout. In a way, Spielberg's movie is an apologia for Mossad, as "The Godfather" was an apologia for the Mafia. (I'm comparing the structure of the movies, not the organizations.) The annoying little things are left out.
And one can't help wondering about that "no negotiating for hostages" axiom either. Why not? If they give in, every Israeli everywhere will become a target. Well, a rat in a Skinner box will certainly repeat activities for which he's rewarded, and he'll avoid those for which he's punished. Some of the rules obviously apply to humans as well. (The slot machines in Vegas put the player on a fractional reenforcement schedule designed to maximize the response -- feeding the machine coins -- while minimizing the payoff.) But in a complex condundrum like this? The Arabs take hostages at Munich and lose. Later, they take hostages on an airliner and win. Punishment in one case, reward in the other. Did the difference in outcome lead to differences in later behavior? Nobody knows. A few focus groups would help, if you can get terrorists to agree to participate in them.
The script presents some interesting ideas. Shirley Knight and Franco Nero have gotten to know one another a bit towards the end. By this time it's clear that Israel will not negotiate and Nero's plan is shot. Knight tells him, reasonably and not ungently, that the entire world is watching to see what he will do next. Wouldn't it be a good idea, she insinuates, if Nero showed the world the more favorable profile of his movement and released the remaining hostages and put an end to the killing? "What?", Nero bristles, "and have people think I am a coward?" And Knight replies, "So these people must die for your vanity?" It's a provocative question -- how many innocent people must die to preserve one man's self image? If the movie doesn't exactly reach out and grab you by the lapels and shake you back and forth, I'm still glad it was made.
Very well done film about the murders of the Israeli Olympic team members by terrorists. Gripping, heartbreaking, and a good job done by Bill Holden as the police inspector. Everyone involved does a stellar job. A great time capsule of the terrible 70's. See it!
A semi-documentary movie about the terrorist attack on the Israeli team
at the Olympic Games at Munich 1972.
In opposite to later adaptations of the same historical event, "21 Hours at Munich" was shot on the original locations. However, it is a little bit less of a documentary than it seems at first, it does take a bit of creative freedom in the narration. Which has been criticized by some reviewers, but makes it a better movie after all. Excellent performances by William Holden as the police chief and Franco Nero as the terrorist leader, whose motivation is explained remarkably well. He is not just the one-dimensional Hollywood villain firing bullets in all directions. That was important to make the film believable, as well as the discussions between the politicians. Even it makes the movie quite wordy, the reasons why and when and how the police fights the terrorists are explained well. "21 Hours at Munich" is a movie you should watch, first for the tragic history that hopefully will never be repeated, second for its solid story telling and acting which is above the genre average.
Accurate but cold vision of the frightful events that took place in Munich
in 1972 when the Israeli delegation of athletes is kidnapped by a bunch of
Arab terrorists.The movie tries to be a faithful documentary of this
political disaster but although his serious and impartial view - a good
point - the outcome is just a cold and not gripping retelling.
I give this a 5 (five).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
well done, i think it is nice movie Franco Nero was amazing, he explained the other side opinion in a very nice way, and the movie show how the politicians in Israel are thinking when they caused this tragedy was always hearing about the conflict in middle east but this movie show me that these Arabs are not killers and they fight for a reason. Franco Nero moved my feeling indeed. why they don't try to make new version of this movie other than Munich, a version for the same story and with a same quality of work, again was really super in his performance.I think the movie didn't show the real true story about this event but at least they were so close to the fact.
21 Hours At Munich tells the tragic story of the Black September
terrorists who took Israeli athletes hostage at the 1972 Olympics and
issued a demand to the government of Israel that a couple of hundred of
their comrades be freed for the lives of these athletes. It was a story
that gripped the world at the time and is still sadly relevant for
This was a new phenomenon at the time, mindless terrorist acts against civilians and governments then and now can't quite come to grips with the concept of pure evil wrapped in a political cause. Black September no doubt picked the target as Munich not only because of the Olympics, but because of the special significance the city has in the rise of Adolph Hitler. Maybe they thought some sympathy from the authorities might linger from Nazi days.
In that they were much mistaken. The West German government was as mortified and embarrassed by the events as anyone else in the civilized world. This was their opportunity to exhibit a post Nazi Germany to the world and it was horrifyingly blown.
William Holden played the head of the Munich PD in charge of dealing with the problem and it's a sincere and level performance he gives. Chancellor Willy Brandt of West Germany is played by Richard Basehart who is the liberal politician who can't grasp even after Hitler there are some folks that just can't be reasoned with. Other performances of note are Franco Nero as the charismatic Black September leader, a picture of homicidal malevolence just itching to kill and Shirley Knight the negotiator for Holden and the Munich PD.
Stephen Spielberg did a great job in putting this film together which should be required viewing for those finding justice in brutal acts of homicide.
The film does a good job of depicting the terrorist attack on Israeli
athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Unlike "Munich" which only spends a few
minutes dramatizing the terror attacks & spends the rest of the film on
Mossad actions tracking down the terrorists, this film shows the horror
of the terror attack.
A much better film on the subject is the documentary "One Day in September" (1999) which won an Oscar for best documentary. The film does a good job of showing the ineptitude of German police forces & the intransigence of the IOC, which would not suspend the games for even one day while the terrorists murdered athletes & held others hostage.
This film has the look of a theater film instead of a made for
television film. Overall it is very satisfying. William Holden does a
very good job portraying the West German Police Captain in charge. The
supporting members around him are very good as well.
The Black September kidnapping attempt of part of the Isreali Olympic team at the 1972 Munich Olympic games is not just a tragedy, but cast a bit of a shadow on the Olympics first visit to Germany since the 1936 Nazi affair. Unfortunately, terrorism seems to have gotten even worse than this incident, but this film tells the story very well about 1972 terrorism.
I watched this on an HD broadcast and am very impressed with the quality of the film picture in HD for this 1976 production. The film feels quite authentic, and looks quite so being done only 4 years after the actual events. The Director of this film has over 130 TV & Movie credits in his career and his work here is as good as any on his resume.
21 Hours at Munich (1976)
*** (out of 4)
Pretty good made for TV movie about the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany where Arab terrorists kidnapped and murdered eleven Israeli athletes. I don't know the entire history of the events surrounding this attack but if this film stays true to what really happened then I can't help but blame the German government and their security at the Olympics. I really couldn't believe how stupid some of the decisions made where and I really wonder what this event would do in today's world where God knows there's a lot more media. As for the film itself, it's entertaining throughout but it never gets too dramatic and the direction lacks any real style or flair. William Holden gives a good performance as the head Munich guy trying to get everything done while Franco Nero steals the show as the head terrorist. Nero is downright brilliant in his part with a look that could kill. I liked how Nero played the part of a thinking man and this really comes across well.
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