Saturday, January 24, 2009


This film really had the potential to make Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan) being branded by Israelis and Sionists as a traitor. Without sparing too much viewers, Munich tells the story of the relations between the Israelis and the Palestinians at the time when the terrorist organization Black September killed eleven Israeli athletes in 1972 at the Olympic Games of Munich. Just like a film like L'ennemi intime, Munich is in its own rights an effective account of the loss of innocence and the unconscious rooting of violence into one's mind.

Based on the book Vengeance, written by Canadian journalist George Jonas, the story takes place in Munich (Germany) in 1972. When the Olympic Games are taking place, eleven Palestinian terrorists from the organization Black September take eleven Israeli athletes as hostages. Afterwards, these Israeli athletes get savagely murdered. A few days later, Golda Meir, the Prime Minister of Israel, gives her authorization to the Mossad, Israel's secret services, to hunt down and kill the eleven Palestinian terrorists of Black September.

With a movie length nearly reaching three hours, Spielberg probably had so many things to say in this touching story about humanity and insanity. The main flaw of Munich is certainly its length. In fact, the movie often suffers from a slow pace at certain moments, because some scenes are just so useless since they don’t help us to understand Munich’s very simple story. Add to that the slow moments in his movie in which the characters are just doing nothing important or saying nothing. All in all, it’s possible, in my opinion, to get through the movie even though its appreciation is a little bit marred by annoying long periods.

As the film progresses, it proposes an understanding of the loss of innocence and humanity in the characters, whether they are Israelis or Palestinians. For instance, Avner Kaufman, the Israeli secret agent and head of the assassination team sent by the Mossad, is apparently going down into his inner hell as time goes by during his mission. In fact, all the five members of the assassination team that we follow loses their humanity by feeling animated by the vengeance that they want to strike the eleven Palestinian terrorists of Black September with. However, the movie goes even deeper by trying to explore what really is the point of the violence made on both sides. Moreover, does violence leave anybody cold or psychologically scarred?

Obviously, the movie’s depth lies in Spielberg’s ability to explain how the Israeli government, since the end of the Second World War, have gradually transformed some Palestinian nationalists into bloodthirsty killers. As opposed to what we might believe, Munich doesn’t try to say who’s right or who’s wrong. Behind some Palestinians’ resentment for Israelis, there's also sadness and a visceral fury caused by the loss of their country, in a land where’s there’s no future for them. Despite being graphically hard to watch, Munich is a movie that shows empathy for both Israelis and Palestinians by showing them as what they truly are: human beings animated by feelings and desires, depending of the sides that they belong to without glorifying their respective endeavours, naturally.

It's also hard not to talk about the performance that illustrates the appearance of inner demons at the contact of violence and anger. The characters’ psychological nuances don’t necessarily lie in what the characters explicitly show on the screen, but rather in their subtle feelings. Some will have the feelings that the leading characters are clearly one-dimensional, but that concealment of psychological multiplicity probably reveals the questions that are being raised in their mind and it also shows how each character is psychologically torn (to kill for Israel or not to kill for Israel). Without revealing too much of the movie, you will certainly appreciate the performance of Eric Bana (Black Hawk Down), as Avner Kaufman, and Daniel Craig (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), as Steve, in their respective role of Israeli secret agents.

Finally, even though Munich is, at the first look, full of riveting action sequences, it is nonetheless a movie that obliges us to think about human condition and personal fate depending of the sides that we belong to. No heroism, no glorification, no minimization. These are great assets that makes Munich a movie that you must see in order to understand impartially the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Rating: 4.5/5

USA (2005)
Length: 164 minutes
Genre: Espionage
Screenplay: Tony Kushner and Eric Roth
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciarán Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler, Ayelet Zurer, Geoffrey Rush, Michael Lonsdale and Mathieu Amalric

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