Well, what can one say about Munich that hasn’t already been said? Spielberg’s dramatic telling “inspired” by the events after the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, in which Palestinian terrorists (Black September) took the Israeli Olympic Team hostage, and ended up killing them all in a disastrous shootout at the airport. Afterwards, it was rumored that the Mossad was hunting down those responsible for the attack, and taking them out. This film is supposedly loosely based on those events, and whether or not it’s accurate isn’t the problem. The problem is, it tries so hard to take an even-handed approach to the story, that in the end, after 160-minutes have passed, you still don’t know what Spielberg’s point was.
Avner (Eric Bana) is a Mossad agent who is recruited to head up a secret-ops team that will travel around Europe, find eleven “marked targets”, and take them out through various clandestine means. After Avner connects up with Louis, a Frenchman whose family has made a living by selling information, he starts dispatching of the targets, and Louis keeps providing names. However, things start to go south, as Avner begins to quesiton what he’s doing, and wonder if the men he’s killing are actually involved with Munich. When members of his own team start being targeted, Avner feels he’s gone too far, and tries to pull out before he and his family get hit.
On a technical level, the film was done very well. It’s a bit long, as mentioned above, but some of the sequences are shot like a gritty 1970s flick (long zooms, etc.). It’s also exceptionally violent. I was a little surprised at how much was shown on screen, so be warned!! Spielberg also intercuts a recreation of the Munich incident as flashbacks throughout the film, climaxing (quite literally) in a rather tasteless juxtaposition of the final slaughter with Avner screwing his wife.
Also, when it comes to the “connection” issue, he even throws in a small (but poignant) suggestion that the CIA was funding Black September after Munich as a deterrent to attacking US interests. Hmm.
Interesting is the limited use of music – there’s about an hour of score, which means there’s about 100 minutes without it. It only shows up during the Munich flashbacks, and the scenes between assassinations. Williams provides a very understated and emotional score when it’s needed – I need to listen to the album to make up my final opinion on this one, though.
But the biggest glaring issue with the film is the implied moral equivalency between what Avner and his team are doing, and the “revenge” attacks that they spawn. Apparently killing the Palestinian who was (supposedly) in charge of funding the Munich attack is just as bad as the Palestinian response, which was to blow up innocent civilians. It’s this kind of equation that plagues the film, and ultimately renders the whole thing useless. I mean, what is the point of being a filmmaker if you’re not going to take a position on an issue? You can’t present both sides in an unbiased manner – especially when the topic is terrorism. With all of the talk about “cycle of violence”, it’s not often that people look at who the targets are. Innocent people die (or get injured) as a result of Avner’s actions – but they aren’t the target. The same can not be said for those he is trying to eliminate.