2006-07-17 15:32


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

Spielberg's Munich is overlong, morally ambiguous and chillingly detached - much like the political struggle that informs the events - yet it remains an excellent piece of deep-thinking cinema.

Denise 2006/01/25 7:07 AM
Munich Saw an advanced screening (thank you MWEB!) Not one detail was overlooked, from the Fiats in Italy to the 70's fashions in France, making a visually enjoyable film. As far as entertainment went - it was there too, and thouroughly enjoyable. But it was dark when it needed to be with very few lighter moments, and on completion one was left with a moral message humming through ones head. Violence breeds violence and it never ends. It's a sad and rather horrific message to take out the cinema accompanied by the feeling of being entertained...
Grant 2006/01/25 7:46 PM
Munich Thanks 1st to Mweb for the preview. The move is not at all lengthy, not gripping as I think it is not intended to be so considering that it is attempting to embed a message -not at all to be arty nor blockbuster material (the material itself cannot be glorified without bias) . It is well paced to succeed in this regard. The movie has been structured to be hopefully truthful and unbiased and thus also questions Anton Marhsall's review of the definition of terrorism (with the advantage of hindsight) and being morally 'ambiguous' - again this is a matter of debate and purely of academic value as the definition of morality is extremely subjective as moral values are by itself passing and relative! Hence I do not think Steven Spielberg could have tampered with this as he would indeed have changed the message of the movie (or the actual events). After all, it is the early 1970's! Maybe the blood bit is overdone but possibly this is necessary in its context as the events of Munich and subsequ Certainly
Cecil 2006/01/26 11:49 PM
Entertainment This type of film hardly sounds like entertainment, but rather a one sided, Spielberg horror film. Wonder if the pink scarf and black and white film will rear their heads again. This shouldn't be on the main stream Hollywood circuit, rather saved for the likes of Cinema Nouveau. Spielberg is still trying to beat James Cameron's Titanic. This is not his first attempt. Formula: - Based on a real story - 3 Hours Long - Tragedy - Main character must die I seem to remember Saving Private Ryan the year after Titanic, to name but 1 Spielberg attempt. May get him the oscar, but the ticket sales should be dismal. Who watches 3 hour movies anymore? I know I just can't find the time. Cruel Intentions 1
bill radbourne 2006/02/05 2:03 PM
munich A riviting film, definately one of Spielburg's best. It had a very loud and clear message that there is no glory in political revenge. As "Anver" said what was the point? For every person they killed they were replaced with someone worse! You saw during the film that there were other atrocities happening around the world, I remember them well. At the end of the day in over 30 years nothing has actually changed. The only solution is dialog, wars are fought by angry young but are caused by bitter old men.
Phil 2006/05/25 11:29 PM
Munich Just a correction: Eric Bana did not play a Greek Prince in Troy, he was a Trojan Prince - and that would be Turkish? Ice Age 2
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