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The infamous attack on Isreali athletes and coaches in the Olympic Village during the 1972 Munich Olympics is chronicled in this made-for-television movie and supplemented with archive footage from the actual games. Members of the Palestinian Black September Movement kill two and hold nine others as hostages to exchange for hundreds of Arab prisoners in Isreali jails. The Isreali government adheres to its policy of not negotiating with terrorists, and German Holocaust guilt will not permit West German officials to allow the terrorists to leave the country with the hostages. Therefore, it falls to Chief of Police Manfred Schreiber to delay fulfilling the Palestinian demands through on-going negotiation, but sooner or later he knows that tough decisions will have to be made.Written by
Steven Spielberg made a version of this true story in 2005 in an attempt to win the Best Picture award; yet in spite of his big budget and top quality actors, he couldn't top this little TV movie from 1976! 21 Hours at Munich may not be a great film, but it's an interesting and successful telling of the events of the 1972 Olympic Games, and despite the fact that it is lacking in a few areas; it does at least get its point across. I have to admit that I'm not too familiar with this story outside of the film versions, so I'm not sure exactly how accurate this retelling of it is. The film focuses on a terrorist plot by a group of Arabs (from the Black September organisation) to free some of their countrymen from prison. They kidnap eleven Israeli athletes and refuse to let them go until their demands are met. They are not interested in money; they just want their countrymen freed from jail. This leads the authorities to work hard to strike a deal with the terrorists in order to get the hostages out alive.
It has to be said that the film is not exactly heavy on the action front and much of the plot is taken up by talking, but this is OK because the script is interesting enough for the film not to grind to a halt because of it. The fact that this is a TV movie probably doesn't help as it has obvious restrictions on the budget and exactly what can be shown. The acting is well above par for a TV movie too, and the film features an excellent performance from the great Franco Nero who stars as the head of the terrorist organisation. He gets the performance spot on and hits all the right notes as a terrorist with an obvious human streak. William Holden is his co-star and also gives a first rate performance also. The plot flows well throughout and the film keeps up a steady pace with enough things going on to keep the proceedings interesting. Anyone who knows how this story went down will know what to expect from the ending; but it's a good conclusion and overall, this is a very good movie; much more involving than Spielberg's version of it, and I highly recommend checking it out if you get the chance.
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