In 1972 the Black September organisation took several members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage at the Munich Games. In the debacle that ensued, all the hostages were killed. Afterwards, the Israeli government "unofficially" sanctioned the assassination of the Black September leadership by means of independent cells of Mossad funded operatives. Avner (Eric Bana) is a young Mossad officer asked to undertake this life-altering assignment, to great personal emotional cost.
Eric Bana has now successfully played an American soldier, a Greek prince, and a Jewish assassin - not to mention an Australian bad boy and a big, green, angry superhero. Interesting, given the recent furore over Chinese actors playing Japanese geisha, but pertinent in that ethnicity plays such an integral part in the issues that inform Munich.
Perhaps the casting of such a "neutral" actor has helped to defuse allegations of polemic opportunism levelled at director Steven Spielberg. The film does offer some insight into the complexities of the Israeli / Palestinian conflict, but the philosophical thrust of the film is far more about the clouding of morality in the wake of retribution than about the empty heroics of honour and revenge.
And it is a cycle of retribution that transforms Bana and his band of unlikely assassins from bumbling amateurs into cold, merciless killers. As it happens, their most efficient kill is that of someone not initially targeted in their brief. This target is personally chosen - and as an act of revenge.
This point in the film establishes its central question: Is vengeance a morally defensible position? Munich never delivers a clear-cut answer.
But Munich is heavy stuff, and it's made heavier by languid pacing (162 minutes) and uncomfortably grimy, dank, almost colourless cinematography by master shooter Janusz Kaminsky. Among Spielberg's other "serious" films, Munich looks more like Schindler's List, both in aesthetic and in shocking audacity.
When moments of violence do erupt on the screen, they feel overly horrific because of a stark detachment - a sort of fly-on-the-wall observation - with bucketloads of blood and coldly observed death poses being the norm. This isn't a family film, and will doubtless draw criticism for its "ultra-violence", which could easily be mistaken for a grandstanding shock-tactic.
In reality, Spielberg's humanistic storytelling inclinations take a back seat to a degree, with very little time spent on supporting characters. Somehow, there's no real glory or romance in the death of these "terrorists", because the film spends little time in demonising them as individuals. They appear as targets and targets only, and that clouds the viewer's sense of "right" or "wrong".
And of course, by way of "terrorists", the film makes a none-too-subtle inference that our protagonists are by most definitions terrorists themselves. At one point, the group, posing as German Red Faction, ETA and ANC (which elicited incredulous laughter from the audience in our cinema!), shares a safe-house with a group from PLO, the very organisation that stands in direct opposition to their cause.
Munich is a theoretically complex film. It is probably Spielberg's most difficult film to date, but its execution justifies why he is mainstream cinema's greatest working filmmaker. It may be overlong and stylistically difficult for commercial cinematic tastes, but it is a film that delivers philosophical impact - in Spielberg's repertoire, it's a minor masterpiece. In Hollywood's repertoire, it could be a major one.
- Anton Marshall
Just another typical Tom Cruise action film, with nothing to get too excited about. The film is loaded with action-film stereotypes and cheesy one-liners. Read More »
Add your review
Hands of Stone is a bland, unlikable portrayal of a real-life boxer that struggles to hit the highs of Rocky IV let alone Raging Bull or the original Rocky. Mark this one down as “for boxing fanatics only”. Read More »
Add your review
South AfricaCity Press
Johannesburg CBDResourcing Solutions
HousesR 1 985 000
HousesR 6 990 000
HousesR 3 220 000