Munich – Movie Review

Steven Spielberg’s story of a team of Israeli assassins sent to kill 11 Palestinian terrorist leaders in retaliation for the killing of 11 hostages at the 1972 Munich Olympics seems to be equal parts drama and thriller. Already there have been rave reviews about this movie—one of the reviewers at Entertainment Weekly even chose it as the best film of 2005. For me I could see how it was well made, but the thrills were a bit muted and the drama was a bit confusing. Avner Kaufman, the team leader, was played convincingly by Eric Bana (Troy, The Hulk) as a man who believes in the nation of Israel, but also struggles with the eye-for-an-eye mission that he’s on as kill after kill starts to wear down on his spirit. There are debate scenes throughout the film (between the five men on the team, between Kaufman and his handler, between Kaufman and a Palestinian agent) that are full of theatrical dialogue (which shouldn’t be much of a surprise since one of the screenwriters was Tony Kushner, the writer of the award winning plays Angels in America). The scenes all seem to be very well-written but I confess that a lot of the meaning was lost on me because I didn’t really have the context, not knowing much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its issues. Spielberg and the screenwriters don’t really take much time to fill in the blanks and while I appreciate that because it makes it less of a “message” movie, unfortunately I was kept out of the film by sheer ignorance. The thriller parts were exciting and tense because these agents are not from the fictional mold of James Bond or Mission Impossible’s I.M. Force. They were real people without high-tech gadgets. All they had were bombs made by a toy maker, and when those didn’t work they had to rely on guns. Several of the assassinations were depicted in the movie and Spielberg succeeded in getting me to bite my nails as I was caught up with the characters. Is this going to work? Are they going to get the guy? What happens when something goes wrong? I think Munich is the first historical thriller that I’ve watched and it seems to be a tricky genre. Filmmakers straddle the line between making the film exciting and a larger-than-life while also being true to the facts, people, and issues. For me this was unevenly done in Munich. (3 out of 5)

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