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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Movie Review: Munich

As I am not an expert on Israeli intelligence history, nor was I even alive at the time of the Munich Olympics, I will only comment on the movie itself. I know that there has been a lot said of the historical accuracy of the picture, but I will have to do some more reading on that subject before I can legitimately even have an opinion on it. And no, I won't be putting in any spoilers, but if you don't want to know anything about the movie before seeing it, then you best be skipping over this here post.
The movie, based on the book Vengeance, by George Jonas, starts right away with the taking of Israeli hostages at the Munich Olympics in 1972 by the group known as Black September. Real news footage is mixed in, giving it a nice air of authenticity (there is even a sound bite from Howard Cosell). Spielberg does an incredible job of maximizing the power of an event. To be honest, I can't put my finger on anything specific, but you come away from the opening scenes of this movie with a sense of how devastating an event this was.
The focus of the story then turns to Avner (played by Eric Bana), a Mossad agent hand picked to head a team who's mission will be to hunt down and kill all of the Palestinians involved in the massacre at Munich. There is a scene in which we are led to believe that Avner is hand picked by the prime minister, Golda Meir, herself which is a little cheesy, but it works ok for the film, as the real process of picking an agent for a special operation would probably be incredibly boring for movie goers. The movie follows Avner and his team as they move throughout Europe, doing the dirty deeds that need to be done. This is by no means a typical spy/espionage movie. The violence that takes place here is ugly and messy. Things don't work as they should, sometimes to catastrophic effects, kind of like the real world. Which is exactly why the film works so well. The viewer is presented with a more gritty look into a world that is usually portrayed on the big screen with fast cars and supermodels. Don't go looking for fast paced action. You won't find it here. Bana does an incredible job as the lead, although he seems to slip in and out of his accent a few times (huge pet peeve for me). A definite plus was seeing a lot of unknown actors. Sometimes it's cool to see a movie where you recognize everyone in it ("Isn't that the guy from..."), but for a movie like this, it's definitely a bigger impact when you don't have any presumptions about the people playing the part. Although he did a great job, I would almost prefer that Bana's character be played by a complete unknown. There are a few scenes featuring subtitles, but not many. Luckily, all Arabs and Israelis spoke English when all this happened... Ha.
Ultimately the movie is about a man's quest to justify his own actions. Something that we can all relate to, but something that becomes even more important for people dealing with others mortality. Is it right to take vengeance? And if so, at what cost? These are the overall themes of Munich, and why it is such an interesting story. There are some very powerful moments focusing on the struggle to weigh the importance of justice versus the pursuit of what most would call a "normal" life by the main character. That is essentially the centerpiece of the story.
The only real downside to the movie is it's length. I can only recall a couple of times that I have sat through a movie that eclipsed the two and a half hour mark and didn't see anything that they could have cut out without hurting the integrity of the picture. This is no exception, as it comes in at 2 hours and 44 minutes and there is most certainly about 20 minutes worth that could be done without. Don't get me wrong, it's not too long in the vain of Speilberg's abomination A.I., but it could be a little shorter and have the same effect.
Overall, a very, very well done movie dealing with a topic which is still very relevant today.

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