Saturday, July 17, 2010

Munich

As our sojourn into Indiana Jones mercifully ends, we follow director Steven Spielberg over to 2005’s Munich, the fictionalized account of an Israeli team sent to assassinate members of the Palestinian Black September in retaliation for murdering te Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 games.

Spielberg walks a fine line with Munich. He honestly does not inject his personal politics into the film. Much like Schindler’s List, the emphasis of the story is on the human cost of war. It is brave for Spielberg because he does question the wisdom of the Old Testament eye for an eye instant revenge for wrongs suffered because such a policy may lead to perpetual acts of retaliation. A knee jerk viewer reaction may claim Spielberg is equating Israel’s actions with those of the Palestinian terrorists.

I will grant Munich possesses a certain naïve tone on the subject of retaliation. There is a definite peacenik streak running through it. But I do not see a blunt denunciation of retaliation, either.

The whole operation is seen as a dirty, but necessary business. As the Mossad and Black September wage a covert war across Europe, the assassination squad members balance the concern for their families safety with their obligation to leave a big enough impression to discourage further terrorist attacks. For instance, the team plans to kill one terrorist with a bomb because an explosion would be flashier than a bullet. That is balancing personal concerns with duty and leaving it up to the audience to decide how they feel about it.

I knew going into the film that Munich is a fictionalized account intended to serve as a thriller rather than an historical piece. It certainly delivers as one. It is a great effort at tightening the screws. Where Munich fails is it lack of heart. The main charactersarerelatively generic. I had a tough time even recalling who was who at times. How am I supposed to feel for these characters when I can barely keep them straight?

By the time I put the DVD back on the shelf, I had already forgotten about any moral debate over the efficacy of retaliation. I was focusing on the intensity of the story instead. Somehow, I suspect that is not how I am supposed to react. But I did enjoy the thriller aspects, so I do not feel cheated. Truth be told, I am relieved to find an entertaining action movie after a long dry spell.

I doubt I will be spoiling the ending too badly at any rate, but final scene and post script were apparently sending an odd message. The movie ends on the New York skyline of the mid-’70’s, World Trade Center and all. The a post-script notes that 9 of 11 Black September terrorists were killed. Is that supposed to be a warning to Americans about the dangers of retaliating against Al Qeada? Very tacky addition to the film if so.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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