MUNICH (2005)
(Release Date: December 23, 2005)


An eye for an eye for an eye for an eye for an... and so on...
The Cycle of Violence continues!

J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

Terrorism is certainly not a new thing, and while some would suggest that its definition lies in the mouth of the accuser, others would state that this represents one of the few true moral absolutes in today's world. Just when everything appears cut and dry the issue reveals itself to be more complicated than ever. The events surrounding the 1972 Olympic games represent just such a complicated time. As the world watched, Palestinian terrorists kidnapped and murdered eleven Israeli athletes. The reason? Quite simply, the world was watching. The Palestinian cause would most certainly be seen and questioned because this Black September attack had made the news.

It's what happened after this that catches the eye of Steven Spielberg in his film Munich. In this Tony Kushner and Eric Roth-penned adaptation of George Jonas' book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team, Spielberg focuses on an agent of Mossad (with "the most boring job in the world") named Avner (Eric Bana). Avner has a beautiful wife, a baby on the way, and a sense of patriotism Alexander Payne would envy. It is due to all three things that Avner accepts the chance to lead a strike team to eliminate those who planned the Munich murders when Mossad comes a-callin' (in the form of Geoffrey Rush's Ephraim).

Spielberg doesn't water down the horrors of the Munich Massacre, and unless you've weaned yourself on every zombie movie ever made (I slowly raise my hand in guilty admission of same), you're bound to be horrified by what plays out on the screen. Avner's team certainly is horrified, and from the moment of their inception they walk down a friendly path of righteous bloodshed. If there's any question that this team is on the moral high ground in their James Bond-esque quest, note that this team actually has James Bond as a member (Daniel Craig plays Steve). Aside from the German-born Israeli Avner (the leader) and Steve the South African (the driver), the squad features Hans (Hanns Zischler), a forgery expert from Germany, Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz), a toy (and bomb) maker, and Carl (Ciarán Hinds), the clean-up man!

Soon, Avner finds himself rubbing elbows with criminals and monsters on his way to committing murder after murder, and when two hydra heads arise in place of the one Avner and company chop off, Avner and company expand their attack to take care of that business as well. Spielberg is subtle and paced (amazing to say in a film filled with explosions) in his shifting of the morality here. Soon Avner finds that he is neck deep in this dirty business and is doing things that no "Good Jew" should ever do. He hasn't seen his family in far too long and he constantly finds himself looking over his shoulder for the retaliation to his retaliation to their retaliation to... you get the idea.

The cycle of violence continues here, and the film never lets the audience forget that even with the best of intentions and the best of reasons, murder is a sick and sad thing. As Avner finds that some of his closest allies aren't the best people in the world, he also realizes that some of his enemies amazingly mirror his own views in the most frightening of ways. Worst of all, Avner finds that it simply won't end, no matter how far away he runs.

Spielberg isn't giving answers here, and regardless of what you might hear from the far right, he is not preaching from a moral ivory tower. Yes, his message is clear, but it's a message of questions, not of directions. There are no easy answers in this one, and the real surprise is not how wrong things can go, but how many people turn out to be right on one level or the other.

Munich takes a realistic and gritty approach to its historical presentation. The film is thoroughly set in the early 1970's from stem to stern and it comes off as a perfect period piece (the textures are so rich you can practically smell grandma's house)! Further, Spielberg shoots this in a style reminiscent of the way things might have been shot in 1972 (and I think he might know a little bit about that), using a film stock and a distancing camera point of view that would look as at home in Coppola's The Conversation as it does here. Like Good Night and Good Luck, Munich makes excellent use of historical news footage covering these events which sets this perfectly in its period and pushes the illusion two steps forward. Even considering all of this, one would have to be as deaf dumb and blind as Vic Rattlehead to miss the fact that in so many ways Spielberg is drawing parallels to today. However, even at its most obvious, Munich never appears heavy handed or blatant with its message. Let's not forget that Spielberg himself is a proud Jewish man, and that this is the same Director who brought us Schindler's List. He isn't drawing you to an ending, he isn't making excuses for either (or any) side, and he isn't telling you how to think. All he is saying here is that there are questions to be asked in anything, and that there is nothing wrong with those questions being asked.

Looking at the resume of Steven Spielberg you will find something as mixed as a blended highball. It's hard to believe that the same director brought us Jaws, 1941, Schindler's List, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can and Munich! The man knows how to make a great film, and he also knows how to phone it in once in a while and just take the make-up test. Here, Spielberg is on the top of his game, giving us a movie that is again unique among his films, and among the films we find in the Cineplexes of today. Four and one half Stars out of Five go to Munich for its singular storytelling style, authentic look and feel and brutal honesty. Given the choice between shutting up and telling the tale he wants told, I think we can applaud the selection he's made. With the excellent script, stark and dated film-making style and acting to drop the jaw (Bana in particular has never been better), this is the one to check out while you can. Until Oscar night, I'll see you in the next reel!

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MUNICH (2005) reviewed by J.C. Maçek III, the one really responsible for this review, but not the cycle of violence.
Hell, send me hate mail and I merely delete the damned thing!
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