Anthony's Film Review

Munich (2005)

Steven Spielberg's Munich reminds us of the brutality of endless violence...

In 1972, the world witnessed a truly horrible incident: 11 Israeli Olympic athletes kidnapped, taken hostage, and killed by Palestinian terrorists from the Black September militant group. It's scary to hear someone like me mention it, but it's especially painful if you were actually around at that time to witness the events unfold in the news media. Now, for those who were born after those days, like myself, there's the 2005 film Munich that begins with a realistic dramatization of the attack but complemented by the same news footage that originally aired around the world in 1972. For me, it was like I was around on that day, too.

Keep in mind that the film Munich is not about the 1972 Olympic games in Munich. It's about the aftermath. As ordinary people around the world come to grips with the tragedy, there is another story unfolding, one that is kept out of the public eye. It involves a covert mission for Israeli agents to eliminate 11 Palestinian targets. Immediately, you can sense what kind of tactic is being played out: an eye for an eye. It's the kind of strategy that would lead nowhere, making the game an endless match without winners or losers.

I won't go into too much depth about the characters. Even if the agents are people who try to have ordinary lives, Munich wisely focuses less on that and more on their mission. As a result, there's not much to say. Still, if you're curious, the central character is Eric Bana as a former Mossad agent. He leads a cast that includes Daniel Craig, Geoffrey Rush, Mathieu Almaric, Michel Lonsdale, and many other good actors. No matter what character they're playing, they're essentially playing the same kind of role: pawns on a bloody chessboard.

The plot of the movie follows a pattern. There is a segment of film where things happen slowly. It essentially involves the Israeli agents advancing towards a Palestinian target and some chit chat in between. This is followed by the moments of suspense where they are ready to take down their targets. Several of these moments involving setting off bombs hidden in the target's home. I like these scenes because of the tension involved with triggering the explosion at precisely the right moment. From there, the pattern continues to alternate between these two types of scenes. It may sound somewhat monotonous, but as the film proceeds, the tension does gradually build up.

After a while, it becomes clear what the film's subject matter is: the never-ending cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. As the Israeli agents hunt down their 11 targets to avenge their own 11 victims, the Palestinians are taking their own drastic measures, propelled by the exact same motive. This is perhaps the main reason I liked Munich. It's historically relevant, not only in the sense of looking back but also in the sense of seeing the world today. The conflict from 1972 has essentially continued even into the 21st century and certainly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (possibly a reference to the events of 1972).

Director Steven Spielberg, also known for Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, handles Munich the same way he handles any sensitive subject matter: with honesty and thoughtfulness. I don't think he's being pro-Israeli with his film. At some points in the movie, I noticed how the Palestinian targets seemed like innocent people and the Israeli agents were the killers. It makes you wonder if there are ever any good guys in a conflict like this. The story does wrap up nicely with the message that violence is brutal, dirty, and ugly. There is no sense of salvation, no matter if the mission was successful and how much time has passed since.

Overall, Munich is a pretty good movie that illustrates conflict with realism. And I think Spielberg being Jewish himself is a definite plus. Art is masterful when the artist is passionate about the subject. That is certainly the case with this story.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Munich, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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