Munich isn't an easy
film. It's a somewhat depressing, sad, sordid and tragic tale, based
on what appears to be a true story. What it is, though, is a masterful
peace of filmmaking.
The jump off point for the
movie is the tragedy of the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, in which a
Palestinian terrorist group called Black September took the Israeli athletes
hostage. A botched rescue attempt led to the death of all the
Israelis. This story alone would be enough for a truly compelling
film, but the movie is not about the massacres, per se, though they color
everything which will come. In fact, the massacre is shown quickly at
the beginning and the end of the film and in occasional flashbacks, but the
story is mostly about what came in its wake.
After the attack, according
to the book which the film is based upon -- and the book has never been
denied, though granted it's never been officially acknowledged either --
Golda Meir and the Israeli government drafted a group of Israelis, all of
whom were in the Army but none of whom had training for this kind of
mission, to avenge the deaths. Essentially they became a covert group
with no official ties to the government whose only job was finding and
blowing up the members of the terrorist group.
However, the deeper that
the men get into the mission the more they see the futility of it. For
every death they avenge, the Palestinians just take another life.
First the Palestinians go after general political targets, then eventually
the members of the group themselves. It is like they are trying to
patch a crumbling dam. They are losing their colleagues and they are
losing their souls.
Some people have complained
that this film, particularly as one done by a famously Jewish director, is
somewhat anti-Israeli. However I think that is way too simple a way to
take the story. The Israelis do some horrible things here. So do
the Palestinians. The story is really showing how violence just
escalates. In a section of the world where life is cheap, the idea of
an eye for an eye just doesn't work because it becomes an endless spiral of
reprisals and revenge.
The film closes on a
perfect note, a single shot that crystallizes Spielberg's vision. I
won't say what it is because I don't want to spoil the moment. However, in
one powerful image the director is able to convincingly show the futility of
the political game of one-up-manship and the horrible, great loss that it
has led to for the entire world.
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Posted: May 6, 2006.