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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.
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!
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 ***
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 he could imagine the simultaneous hijacking of four American airliners by terrorists intent on 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 élan 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 in most ways a film for adults. Spielberg deletes the accidental killing of an innocent Arab waiter in Lillihammer, Norway, and doesn't mention 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 conundrum 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? From her lips to the skies. "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.
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.
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.
Released only one Olympic cycle after the actual events occurred during
the 1972 Olympics, this film documents many of the behind-the-scenes
events that happened while the world watched the horrible drama unfold.
As a big fan of the Olympics, I was watching as news stories
interrupted the peaceful competition to explain the unthinkable had
Terrorists had invaded the Olympic compound--the ultimate symbol of peaceful coexistence--and killed Israeli athletes, taking others hostage as leverage to demand the release of comrades held in captivity. As a viewer, I vividly remember the shadowy image of a man on a balcony, a man who threatened the Olympic principles and the world at large, but somehow, though he was visible, was beyond the reach of retaliation. It was frustrating and tragic, but hostages' lives were in the balance.
This film was no doubt an attempt to fill in the blanks for many people who only saw those shadowy images from a distance. But is it more than a documentation? Is it a warning to the world or to those who would use terrorism for their political purposes? Or a tribute, perhaps, to those who did their best to tragic events that unfolded or those who were the victims of those who promote the initiation of violence (even against civilians) as a means to an end?
The narrative seems to bear few embellishments to the actual events of 1972. Hostage situations--with all of the accompanying negotiations and strategizing--are dramatic enough. William Holden, as chief of police, adequately portrays a man who will forever second guess his decisions. The leader of the terrorists (Franco Nero), becomes more than a shadowy figure as the film shows moments when his humanity is revealed. Presented with the option to walk away from further bloodshed, he says, "And have people think I am a coward?" When I first heard this line in 1976, I thought it referred to the world at large, but now I wonder if he was thinking about others who sympathized with his world view.
The nightmarish specter of terrorism on an international level can be
said to have its origins in what occurred during September 4th and 5th,
1972 at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany. For
twenty-one hours, the world, having been transfixed by how much the
standing of the German nation had improved during these Games from what
had been done in Berlin in 1936 under the shadow of Hitler, was
horrified by how eight heavily armed gunmen belonging to the Black
September terrorist organization had managed to storm the Olympic
Village and hold nine Israeli athletes hostage (having already killed
two of them). The terrorists' demands, which of course Israel wasn't
about to comply with, were the release of two hundred militants from
various factions being held in German prisons, or the Israelis would be
killed. It all ended in the most horrific way possible at nearby
Furstenfeldbruck airport early on the morning of September 5th.
The 1976 made-for-TV film 21 HOURS AT MUNICH was really the first dramatic attempt to place these horrific events into context; and given that, when it aired on November 7, 1976, the events were still relatively fresh, it had to have been more than a little painful to watch. That said, this still holds up as a thoroughly well made film about the first act of internationally televised political terrorism. Incredibly filmed on location in Munich itself, the film stars William Holden as Manfred Schreiber, the chief of police in Munich who has to deal with this incredible crisis for which West Germany was woefully unprepared for (deliberately lax security, owing to a desire not to make the Olympic Village seem like a modern-day concentration camp, allowed the terrorists to slip through), with Franco Nero portraying the Black September leader who identifies himself as "Issa". In the main, the approach taken by this movie towards the incident is one resembling a chess game, with nine Jewish pawns in the middle of it all. And when Holden is forced to make the decision to end this thing at Furstenfeldbruck, he is under the assumption that Nero has only four compatriots with him, when in reality it was eight. And with untrained snipers not being told how to coordinate with one another as to the targets, the nightmare that ensues is all but preordained.
While it might have been exceptionally tempting for this TV movie, which was scripted by Edward Hume (TWO MINUTE WARNING) and Howard Fast (the author of the source material for Stanley Kubrick's 1960 epic SPARTACUS) from the book of the same name by Serge Groussard, to turn the events into melodramatic fodder, veteran TV and feature film director William A. Graham holds off on that, instead allowing this to become more of a psychological drama in which the entire world was watching. Although much more of the Munich tragedy, including the well-meaning ineptitude of the Bavarian and West German officials and the arrogance of the International Olympic Committee in not halting the games until some eleven hours into the crisis, was shown in the later Oscar-winning 1999 documentary ONE DAY IN September, 21 HOURS AT MUNICH still manages to let a fair amount of that in itself. Holden and Nero are very well matched; and the film also co-stars Shirley Knight, Anthony Quayle, and Richard Basehart (who portrays West German chancellor Willie Brandt).
The events of Munich have colored not only the Olympics, both winter and summer, in political and social turmoil of some kind ever since, but a great many sports events around the world, including our Super Bowl and the World Cup. 21 HOURS AT MUNICH, like the later ONE DAY IN September and Steven Spielberg's own 2005 film MUNICH (which looks at Israel's response to the horror), gives us as insightful a glimpse into why this is so as any dramatic presentation could ever hope to accomplish.
*** 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.
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