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This movie relates more than just a story of "Vengeance". Besides
proving that killing begets killing - it consists of numerous fine
details that reveal the hard work done at getting to the depth of
For instance, only characters that get shot in the head slump to the ground. The rest take time to die - they walk a few steps, spurt blood and express a look of helplessness and inevitability before going out. Yes its horrifying to look at, which is the point, but it is also real.
Every character is different, and though common in their desire for vengeance, their temperaments are clearly distinguishable in the way the hit men approach their task. Even the terrorists are not stereotyped into hysterical, screaming lunatics. They range from the visibly nervous to the cool Abu Salameh with the movie star style. They are poets, intellectuals and guerrillas each with his story of the conflict. They speak passionately about home - a recurring theme, along with "family". Moreover, Spielberg does not attempt to mitigate the grotesque manner of their deaths, for the blood of the targeted men flows as freely as that of their victims - and when they are blown up, their body parts dangle from ceiling fans. You are not here to feel satisfaction over anyone's death, Spielberg says to the audience. Or as Caine would say in Kung Fu: "The taking of a life does no one honour."
There are no easy "shoot-em-dead" eliminations. There are neighbors, bystanders and obstacles that must be avoided and protected - with variable success. Innocent people may be harmed - and one has to live with that.
There are no mathematical certainties about the potential damage a bomb will cause.
Perspectives and convictions can change, sometimes regrettably. "Don't think about it - just do it" says Avner at one stage when a member of the team expresses doubts about a target's guilt. But at the end he wants evidence that the men he despatched were justifiably killed. Implausible? No; it is only when he has been reunited with his family and experiences the affection of wife and child that he allows himself to reflect from a different perspective - their targets had families too - what if he had killed the wrong men?
The paranoia that permeates the world of spies and assassins is built up gradually - to the point where every survivor mistrusts everybody else. One is doomed all one's life to walk with ears strained for following footsteps. The length of the movie creates the right atmosphere for this idea.
The end dissatisfies many because they would like a reassurance, a note of optimistic finality - but Spielberg rightly offers none. It would be dishonest of him to offer a false but comforting illusion.
It is interesting to contrast this movie with "Paradise Now" that has no violence, a modest budget, and views the conflict from the Palestinian camp. Both narrate completely different stories - yet, in their respective ways, both humanize their subjects, defuse myths about glory, and arrive at the same conclusion: "There's no peace at the end of this."
Steven Spielberg has absolutely everything at his disposal, he can make an epic in no time at all. But, even he must know that films, most films have a soul and that can't be rushed. Why the need to rush this film into screens? For Oscar consideration? If there was a film that needed nurturing and thought was this one. The length is a flaw in itself. It makes it appear self indulgent and, quite frankly,annoying. If one could, and one should, put that aside, "Munich" is a remarkable experience. Tony Kushner and Eric Roth deal with people in all its complexity - a welcome new detail in a Spielberg film - and that gives "Munich" its most powerful aspect. Eric Bana is extraordinary and the humanity of his gaze is confusing and recognizable at the same time. His crying at hearing his child's voice over the phone is as real as his hardness when he massacres his targets. The controversy raising after the first public screenings seems pre-fabricated by a marketing machine. The questioning of Bana's character and the appalling nature of revenge can't be controversial it's at the base of human nature. To call Spielberg "no friend of Israel" is as absurd as it is suspicious. No, this movie is a thriller, based on actual events, directed by the greatest craftsman of the last 30 years in a record amount of time. Go see it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Reading over the comments and message board postings for Munich on this
site, I get the impression that at least 75% of the people here are
less interested in discussing the film and its message than the
Arab-Israeli conflict in general. I've read a lot of baseless
criticisms, and I honestly think that the whole point went over most of
these people's heads. The ones who have actually seen the movie, that
This film was a masterpiece, and it's refreshing to see such a heavy, thought-provoking film released by a major studio. Anyone who claims that the film is pro-Israel or biased in either direction really has brought their own baggage to the theatre with them, or they haven't actually seen the film firsthand.
To anyone seriously interested in seeing this film, PLEASE do not listen to the pseudo-intellectuals who are posting their ignorant, uninformed opinions of the film at IMDb. Don't go to the theatre expecting to have your own personal bias (whichever it may be) reinforced. The only bias you will find in this film is your own.
'Munich' is, on the whole, a straight forward hit-man movie. The
assignments are handed out; the team is assembled, each with their own
specialty; and they travel about Europe plotting and carrying out their
hits. We have the inevitable paranoia, the double agents and suspicious
loyalties. So far, so familiar. Only 'Munich' is wrapped in the thin
veneer of 'history' and 'fact', and mob bosses and corporate espionage
is replaced with Middle Eastern politics and Israeli-Arab relations. I
mention this because the politics of 'Munich' are really nothing more
than a topical plot devise, used the same way as cold-war relations and
soviet villainy was used thirty years ago.
What prevents 'Munich' becoming just a generic updated-cold-war thriller, is the sheer quality of the production. From the flawless recreation of European capitals in the early seventies to the impeccable costume design to the beautiful cinematography 'Munich' is a visually fascinating movie. The performances are universally outstanding, with Bana in particular bringing a sense of tough nobility that seems to be his forte. The script is intelligent and thought-provoking, and it is Kushner's focus on the emotional and psychological landscape of his characters rather than the details of political contract killing, that ultimately lifts the movie above the generic. The kind of self-consciously poetic prose for which he is known, so often seeming unrealistically erudite, is kept to a minimum, and when it does appear, is so beautifully written and performed that all reservations are forgotten.
Ultimately, the greatest praise must be reserved for Spielberg, who has, with 'Munich', created perhaps the first truly adult movie of his career. We see no signs of his trademark sentimentality, his descents into fantasy, his childish simplification of motivation. With 'Munich', he embraces ambiguity and complexity, and as a result, has invited criticism from those who prefer their drama simplistically black and white. Above all, one can't help but wonder what the Spielberg oeuvre would look had he not dedicated his career to kid's movies, fantasies and feel-good sci-fi.
'Munich' is an intelligent and gripping thriller that is a major contender for award recognition, and deservedly so. An outstanding achievement.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In an interview given shortly before the release of "Munich," director
Steven Spielberg discussed his film in the context of world terror
today, as follows: "Somewhere inside all this intransigence, there has
to be a prayer for peace."
I personally recall the tragic events of the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, as I had just graduated from college and was following closely the moving and graphic images on television, as described so vividly by newscasters Jim McKay and Peter Jennings. The opening scene of "Munich" recreates the attack on the dormitory and the subsequent killing of the athletes at the airport. Those were ten minutes of taut and riveting drama.
But the main dramatic impetus of "Munich" is the retaliation on the Palestinian planners of the "Black September" massacre. The strike force is led by the character Avner, a zealous and patriotic member of Israel's Mossad. Along with Eric Bana in the role of Avner, the entire cast of "Munich" is superb. Geoffrey Rush is a standout as the Mossad handler of Avner, and in an all-too-brief scene, Lynn Cohen turns in a charismatic performance as Golda Meir.
But "Munich" is not a film to discuss in terms of star performances, and much credit should go to Tony Kushner and Eric Roth for the thoughtful ensemble screenplay. The most memorable moments in the film are those involving the hit team led by Avner. In the planning and carrying out of the assassinations by a small group of men, it becomes clear that the participants are no more than ordinary people who become obsessed with killing. Thus Avner, who would prefer the domestic world of living with his wife and newborn daughter, descends into a virtual state of madness as a result of the killing frenzy.
The Greek poet Aeschylus wrote one of the most expressive works of literature on the theme of "an eye for an eye" in the revenge trilogy "Oresteia." That epic work dramatizes the culmination of the long cycle of murder within the ill-fated House of Atreus in Greek mythology. The killings finally end when the goddess Athena establishes the law court in Athens to provide human justice, as opposed to blood vengeance. Orestes succumbs to the pursuit of the furies and spirals into madness. That was the precise tragic journey of Avner, as depicted in "Munich."
Mr. Spielberg's concept of "intransigence" gets to the heart of the matter in our own modern tragic experience. In the Oxford English Dictionary, the word intransigence is defined as "uncompromising hostility; irreconcilability." Like the "Oresteia," the film "Munich" provides a balanced and powerful commentary on the human impulse of "an eye for an eye" revenge. The ancient Greek concept of justice meant something like "scale" or "balance" used to resolve a seemingly irreconcilable conflict. The thoughtful and powerful film "Munich" offers us the opportunity to meditate on this concept, not for the 5th century B.C. world of Aeschylus, but for our own.
Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind." What
distinguishes justice from vengeance? This echoes throughout Steven
Spielberg's "Munich". "Munich" is powerful and perhaps Spielberg's most
compelling and thought provoking work. He weaves a tapestry of
political and social threads focusing on terrorism and the cost of
violence. "Munich" is truly amazing in balancing linear storytelling
and horrific acts of violence, demonstrating the impact of the
aftermath. Spielberg's "Munich" seen through the eyes of Eric Bana's
Avner is a powerful allegory that even in the most just and noble
fights against terror we eventually become that which we despise.
"Munich" really serves as a reminder. Mossad team leader Avner played
by Eric Bana is absolutely riveting as the man who begins this
righteous cause only to find that the cost is his soul. Anver asks,
"When does it ever end?"
At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Palestinian terrorists brutally murdered the Israeli wrestling team. This political statement was seen around the world and depicted in gory detail by Director Spielberg. Based on the book "Vengeance" by George Jones, the screenplay by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth tells the story of the aftermath of this tragedy. A great Lynn Cohen who plays Prime Minister Golda Meir says, "Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values." Poetic words for what follows are a search and destroy mission. The Mossad assembles a team lead by Avner (Bana) to track down and kill with extreme prejudice all those involved in the terrorist action in Munich. 11 names are identified for execution. These executions are also intended to serve as statements. Anver though an inexperienced operative and not an assassin is selected for the covert mission by Ephriam (the great Geoffrey Rush) for being a strong and effective leader of men. The assassin team is composed of Steve (Daniel Craigthe next James Bond), Carl (Ciaran Hinds), Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz), and Hans (Hanns Zischler). They are dissociated from the Mossad, i.e. they technically don't exist.
In accepting the lead, Avner must leave his beautiful and pregnant wife Daphna (a very strong Ayelet Zorer) for what could be a number of years. Carl has his doubts about Avner, telling him that he was chosen because he is a "good soldier". Soon Carl respects Avner for his quiet force and conscience. Attack of conscience and paranoia soon engulf the team as they become entrenched in the world of underground intelligence for hire. Avner pays large sums of money for information on the whereabouts of his targets from Louis (wonderfully shady Mathiew Amalric) and his wealthy Papa (weary and noble Michael Lonsdale). Avner soon finds that whomever he kills is eventually replaced, and that he and potentially his family is now a target for the terrorists he was assigned to hunt down and kill. The realization is that it truly never ends. Bana is amazing as a trapped animal in the scene in his thrashed apartmentsearching for weapons of his demise. Paranoia sets in, and the path of justice and vengeance become blurred. In a poignant scene Robert pleads to Avner, "When I lose my righteousness, I lose everything "
Nothing about "Munich" is easy, though it is simple. I believe that is Steven Spielberg's intention. "Munich" could be tighter in spots, though this does not diminish the movie's power and impact. Eric Bana emerges as the noble hero battling to salvage his own humanity and his very soul. "When does it ever end?" Perhaps even in the current context there is no real answermaybe what Spielberg is getting at. It is a reminder of our humanity, that even the most righteous cause may cost our souls. "Munich" is truly a powerful movie worth seeing.
I am not a big Spielberg fan, and find he often goes for cheap
emotional manipulation in his films, especially his endings. I was
there fore amazed at the unflinching control he exercised in Munich,
his utter unwillingness to flinch at complexities, his ability to
dissect the ideological and moral sureties of all sides within the
natural rhythms of the thriller genre. There is so much to praise in
this film, because it is utterly seamless film-making with a keen eye
for every little detail that never reveals the intense precision behind
While some have found the film "disengaged," I found that it pulled at the viewer's conscience through the central characters, not only Bana's Israeli agent Avner and his cohorts, most of who slowly find themselves gnawed by doubts of their mission's morality and effectiveness, but also smaller characters as well, drawn with indelible deftnessthe weary ex-French Resistance fighter now a trader in deadly information to stateless agents because of his cynicism about recurrent corrupt regimes replacing each other, or the PLO operative who debates Palestinian strategy and justification with Avner, who he wrongly believes to be a German left-wing terrorist who is "soft" on Jews because of the Holocaust. The economy of Spielberg's film-making is breathtaking in hindsight, so that what at first seems a relatively flat and emotionless exercise in historical recreation slowly seeps into one's subconscious and then moves upward, in quick bursts of sudden bursts of emotional and intellectual recognition by the viewer. These are real human beings, these are fighters in a war they believe in desperately and whose people have suffered terribly yet can find no real peace.
For this Kushner and Roth's screenplay must get much credit, the crisp narrative development intertwined with intellectually rigorous set pieces and flat-out armrest-clutching actions sequences. John Williams, who has managed to be understated in the past, is equally adept at building (or feinting) tension and subtly commenting on character development. Check out the slightly dissonant piano in the last scene to see what I mean. Longtime Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski creates some amazing framing devices, especially as the action sequences are about to unfold and during moments of intimate conversations imbued with tension. Michael Kahn's editing is crisp and occasionally startling, as in the way the conclusion of the horrifically bungled Munich "rescue" is related. The retelling of the entire event from break-in to conclusion is doled out in bits and pieces in what seems at first an attempt to soften its impact but in the end, entwined as it is with all of the complicated issues, is finally revealed as a masterful means of achieving the fully deserved emotional impact within a complexly rendered ideological, moral and strategic matrix. There is not a false note in any of the acting, and the casting is uniformly spot-on.
About the politics. The radicals on either side will reject the film out of hand because it dares to render both sides as human and worthy of understanding. But attempting to understand choices of violence and vengeance as strategies does not in any way mean condoning them. Certainly, anyone who feels that the film somehow allows a viewer to walk away thinking that Black September was justified in its attack is probably projecting his or her fears about how some imagined uninformed viewer might react. Instead, the film demonstrates that whether one feels either or both sides justified it doesn't mannerneither side can win through violence at this point. This was Yitzhak Rabin's great insightyou don't make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies. His Israeli Jewish murderers wanted violence to continue, believing that only a continued state of war would keep Israel from giving back land they saw as bound up with their faith but which international law, historical study and the basic "facts on the ground" reveal to be bound to be returned to the Palestinians. Ariel Sharon, of all people, came to understand this, though without the larger vision and magnanimity of spirit that his fellow warrior Rabin discovered. Spielberg's message is clearthe extremists will choose war over peace, but must so many of us side with the extremists because of our fear of appearing weak or "giving in"? A last note on politicsthere is clear relevance to the United States' current predicament post-9/11. One can almost here Cheney or Bush making the speech made by Israeli premier Golda Meir in the film (an extraordinary piece of recreation that transcends mere imitation), only probably with more moral surety and less sense of resignation. Anyone paying attention to world reaction to Guantanimo, Abu Gharib, the bombing of Afghan and Iraqi villages and the spiriting away of suspected terrorists through "rendition" for torture in "friendly" nations must be aware that whether one leans hard or soft on such matters, there is going to be a price to be paid. The hardliners believe we will just keep punching and slugging and eventually the bad guys will go down; that they will not reproduce themselves like the many-headed Hydra or germinate and reproduce by the thousands in the fetid waters of our perceived hypocrisywhether you think it justified or not it doesn't matter. As Spielberg makes clear in this film, all that matters in the end is peace or violence, and whoever ultimately desires the former had better be damn sure that their use of the latter is measured by the awareness that it use will create debts that will need to be repaid in the end, and the debtors will most likely be the generations to come on all sides.
Another dip in the Spielberg pool and I come away drenched in emotion.
I was a freshman in high school in Texas during the Munich games. I was
stunned by the events and understood little.
Today, I am still stunned by Munich and every terrorist act that followed, but I understand so much more and grieve. Spielberg gives us a powerful glimpse into the meaning of home, family, honor, history, ethics, and faith. The movie is not about the Jews and Arabs. It's about human beings. It's about us.
The narrative is driven by our connection to Avner. We watch as Eric Bana opens himself up in a way that the likes of a George Clooney in Syriana only dreams of.
This is a must see.
I don't think the "perfect" movie has been made yet. I don't know that
a masterpiece is necessarily perfect, so, viewers will undoubtedly find
faults in this movie, some of which have already been expressed in the
comment section. But masterpiece or not, I really liked this movie. It
told a particular side of the story and told it well. And if you
witnessed any of the tragedy of Munich in the summer of 1972, you feel
a connection to the events portrayed in this movie. We, the audience,
become a member of the hit squad able to empathize with the angst in
becoming assassins with consciences, as collateral damage does matter.
But the trouble with trying to maintain a conscience is that each notch
on the belt is another slash of your humanity ripped from your soul.
You squirm from living in the uncertainty of trusting people you are
suspicious of in order to fulfill your mission. You nervously plan the
pathway to the next target. You seethe with the frenzy of the kill. You
perpetually twitch in the paranoia of becoming the hunted, "sleeping"
with one eye open and a finger on the trigger. In the beginning you are
swept away by your sense of duty to God and country above all else. In
the end you are cynical, angry and afraid about what you have done and
what you have become.
There are many other sides of this story. It is left to other movies or media to tell those versions. I won't take this one as a definitive history lesson on the subject. Instead I'll take it as a captivating tale of a struggle of life and death played on a complex stage of geopolitics.
If you ask me who was the most talented director working in film today,
I'd hesitate for a while. Then I'd look at you and say, "Probably
Steven Spielberg'. A lot of film directors in Hollywoodwho are
well-known are overrated (Oliver Stone, Sofia Coppola, Anthony
Minghella, etc), but one that is not overrated at all is Spielberg. The
man is obviously a cinematic genius who thrilled and enthralled us with
his grim but unimaginably powerful WWII epic 'Saving Private Ryan', his
still-frightening 'Jaws', his severely underrated 'Amistad' and of
course, his heart-breaking masterpiece that still remains one of the
twenty best films of all time 'Schindler's List'. I can't even begin to
describe to you how jazzed I was about the controversial vengeance
drama 'Munich', which was Spielberg's first Oscar-contending movie in
seven years. After viewing it I have to say I was a bit let down, but I
still got what I predicted I'd get going into the theater -- the best
film of 2005. Spielberg challenges our beliefs on justice with his
intense but painfully realistic bone-chilling masterpiece. You have to
see this movie.
Almost around the age of 45-50 remembers the 1972 Olympics incident that happened in Munich. On a gloom September day, eleven innocent Israeli athletes were abducted and taken prisoner by a mob of Palestinian terrorists. The terrorists held them hostage at the Munich airport, then based on a mistake by the Munich police department many terrorists were killed and took all of the unfortunate hostages with them. The film starts after these events when Prime Minister Golda Meir (Lynn Cohen), secretly decides to start a small mission to find the Palestinian's responsible and murder them. She hands the case down to case officer Ephraim (Academy Award Winner Geoffrey Rush - Shine) who hands it over to Meir's ex-bodyguard Avner (Eric Bana - Troy). Avner must leave his family to undergo this mission and form a team to help him complete it. The team is; Steve (Daniel Craig - Layer Cake), the trigger-man, Carl (Ciarin Hinds - HBO's Rome) the clean-up man, Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz - Birthday Girl), an ex-toy maker turned explosives expert, and the elderly Hans (Hanns Zischler - Undercover) who is a forging expert. They five go on a mission of vengeance, but are soon faced with unexpected problems in the process and feelings of guilt which lead some to believe maybe what they are doing isn't righteous.
When creating 'Munich' Steven Spielberg could have sided one way or the other on issue 'revenge killing', but he doesn't, and I strongly admire that. Instead, Spielberg does what any intellectual would do, he presents situations and historical truths and makes you decide for yourself. That's something you can't expect nasty politically-slanted morons like Michael Moore to do. Spielberg provides us with the best film directing in two years with his quiet stroke of genius that is Munich. Spielberg's directing is both electrifying during the action sequences and beautiful during the poignant and thought- provoking scenes like when Kassovitz's Robert questions Bana's Avner about the good of what they are doing in a subway station on the way to assassinate another target. Munich's film editing and cinematography both should win Oscars, while the acting (which isn't getting much acclaim from award mediums) is frightfully close to perfect. Eric Bana gives the performance of his career as Avner that will no doubt impress you, while Kassovitz, Zischler and Craig exceptional also. Rome's Ciarin Hinds turns in an outstanding performance as the ultra-cool clean-up guy Carl that should also win an Oscar nomination, while Geoffrey Rush does wonders with a small role as Avner's case officer (so does Lynn Cohen as Golda Meir).
If Spielberg's 'Munich' doesn't tug at your chest at the end, I would question your humanity. Spielberg doesn't butter this up so it goes down easier, he aims straight for the gut with his razor sharp realism and rubs salt in the wound. 'Munich' isn't a fun film, but there is no question it is a riveting and nearly flawless one. You will have a lot to talk about after the film has ended. With 'Munich', Steven Spielberg gives us one hell of a history lesson. Grade: A (screened at AMC Deer Valley 30, Phoenix, Arizona, 1/7/05)
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