Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Munich, a movie review

Democracy don’t rule the world
You’d better get that in your head

This world is ruled by violence

But I guess that’s better left unsaid

~Union Sundown / Bob Dylan

I decided to see Munich again recently, the 2005 in part to see Daniel Craig, who now has star power due to his Bond role but was then one of many talented faces to share the spotlight, or rather not steal the spotlight as director Spielberg's aim was to spotlight the story.


Munich aims to re-tell the story of Black September and its aftermath. Black September is the name given to the slaughter of Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympics, an event so public and visible it rocked the world. The movie details the follow up, the non-visible retribution, the actions of a secret team of hit-men whose assignment was to hunt down and kill all the perpetrators.

Eric Bana plays Avner, who has been appointed head of the five man team with Golda Meir herself giving the stamp of approval. This is, however, an off-the-books operation and no one is ever to know it even existed.

The film is violent, with the realistic violence Hollywood seems to excel at. And the taut story line is typical Spielberg in that it's so skillfully assembled. Everything about the film is executed with excellence.

But what makes the film important are the questions it asks. How does violence stop violence? What does violence do to the good guys themselves as they carry out their violent missions? And for Avner, who is the central character in this story, what does it mean to be a Jew?

This is Spielberg's trademark. Selecting one individual to tell the story of far vaster importance. In Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg used the quest to find one soldier a long way from home as a vehicle for giving us an up close and personal perspective about Normandy, D-Day, and war. In Schindler's List we come to understand meanings about the Holocaust through the story of a man who at great risk chose to do something redemptive rather than close his eyes and walk with the herd.

The film Munich opens with Avner and his pregnant wife, intimate and looking forward to starting a family. Things don't always go as planned. Black September results in the formation of a hit squad, and Avner is selected to lead the team because his father was a war hero. As Avner leads the team on its circuit of European capitals and Lebanon, they become externally successful in their efforts, but internally crumpled, torn by the weight of paranoia, uncertainty and even doubts about the mission.

The film ends with Avner and his wife, and daughter, in New York. But it is no longer the innocent young man we saw at the film's beginning. He's been changed, which is the essence of any good story.

ennyman rating: Five stars out of five

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