Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Eric Bana, Geoffrey Rush, Daniel Craig

An intriguing historical insight
Based on the events of the ‘Munich Massacre’ at the Olympics in 1972, ‘Munich’ is Spielberg’s interpretation of the secret Mossad retaliation operation now known as ‘Operation Wrath of God’.
Eric Bana plays ‘Avner’, a Mossad agent recruited to lead a small team against members of ‘Black September’ who orchestrated the massacre.
Avner officially resigns from Mossad to give the Israeli government plausible deniability.

The cinematography in the opening scene is worth mentioning, it sets a very suspicious mood which gives the audience a very early sense of intrigue. If you know nothing of the ‘Munich Massacre’, then the graphic nature of this opening scene will have a bigger impact upon you. The tension and suspense created during these early moments of the film set a nice pace to be carried through. Spielberg’s portrayal of these events creates a very well executed shocking sense of realism.

I couldn’t help but feel, however, that to some people interest might be lost within the first 10 minutes. After showing a portion of reconstructed events in somewhat realistic detail, the film shifts to a slower pace with less intrigue with the display of on-lookers watching their TV sets, and reporters at the scene. This can however be construed to be with good reason, setting an authentic mood of how people reacted to the news at the time with a very clueless perspective, which was achieved well with some archive footage of the events.
For audience members who remember watching these events on the news, this can easily bring back emotions experienced at the time.

There is a great feeling of an independent production surrounding this, with a Hollywood look pasted over the top – You can see the money, and with Spielberg in charge, it’s no surprise this got a major release into the box office. This isn’t particularly a bad thing though; this just goes to show what you can accomplish when a real life drama is granted a healthy budget.
Though it seemed at times that the money was used to acquire the best equipment possible rather than considering the mood of the scenery, resultantly, this made several sets visually come across as a studio stage where each scene was, in actuality, shot on location.
However this does not distract from the rest of the film too much, maintaining suspense, intrigue and tension throughout.

Eric Bana gave an amazing performance, practically stealing the show. It’s clear he worked very hard on his accent.
Though Geoffrey Rush delivered some great acting too, his accent didn’t feel too solid. Everybody slipped up a tiny bit here and there, but I think Rush’s accent was the least consistent.
Daniel Craig was fairly mediocre in this, a bit semi-natural. He carried his role well but wasn’t very consistent – There were moments when it felt like he was over-acting, as if trying too hard to grant his character a sense of realism.

The other notably great performance was from Mathieu Amalric who plays a character called ‘Louis’, ‘Avner’s primary source for gathering names of ‘Black September’ members. He is a very intricate, well written character – There is something naturally sinister about Amalric as an actor, and this aided him well here, making ‘Louis’ a subtly untrustworthy character. The chemistry between Amalric and Bana was brilliant, they were very natural together and this made their scenes together very captivating.

One particular scene to mention shows ‘Louis’ taking ‘Avner’ to his father’s place for lunch, surrounded by a very large family. ‘Louis’s father came across as a somewhat contrived character in the things he said. The character was written to portray a certain level of wisdom, delivering various metaphors such as; “Butchers’ hands, gentle souls”, and saying to his son, “You centaur, you minotaur.” The whole scene was an explosion of forced metaphor and felt a little detached from the rest of the film.

Structured around attempts on members of ‘Black September’, ‘Munich’ is well designed and artistically executed. Each attempt on a member of ‘Black September’ brings an excellent level of conflicting humanity, evil and power. Their first potential assassination brings about the realisation that they are not only killing people with terrorist involvement, they are killing fathers, sons, uncles and brothers. These people, despite their evil, are people who will be missed. Though ‘Avner’s team believe themselves to have faith in the operation they are carrying out, their morality often gets in the way as they try to execute their target, and their target alone, bringing about a certain degree of failure with each attempt.

The character development is well orchestrated, giving us a group of very compassionate and moral assassins. This is displayed best at the meal time scenes; the main characters always share large home-cooked meals with each other to discuss their execution plans. This is some great symbolism, showing how they can participate in something so tidy and civilised, only to discuss plans of something so messy and monstrous. These meal times gradually display a realisation of potential futility in their operation.
As the film moves along, ‘Avner’ starts to question the morality of what he is the leader of. If what he is doing, is the right thing to do? Whether it is justified? Whether he was manipulated by the government of his own country, to carry out an operation for selfish national objectives or pure revenge? It’s a very well orchestrated ambivalent mix of compassion and evil, and the protagonist knows this.
Due to this, we ultimately have a traumatised hero who feels as if he has accomplished nothing, making not only the character, but the audience realise the futility of retaliation and terrorism as a whole.

I rate this film a respectable 7 out of 10, it’s well worth seeing and is very enjoyable. Great performances, story, script and great historical research.
From what I’ve read of the actual events of the ‘Munich Massacre’, the film appears to be very historically accurate, and the mix of fiction is superbly balanced. It’s great to see an A-Lister like Steven Spielberg tackle such a challenging piece. This is one of those films not necessarily designed to entertain, but to teach us about humanity, and the depth and fragility of human emotion and mentality as well as a bit of history.

Cross-posted with: Tecurious


2 Responses to “‘Munich’”

  1. 1 Jay
    February 14, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Good review. I enjoyed watching the film, but I did feel there were some holes in it. I hadn’t thought about what those holes might have been but the ones you have raised I definitely see. I would have also liked to have seen more of a character development of Avner before he is launched into the main story of the film, but I guess it was intentional not to do so in order to reveal his character during the course of the film, none the less I still felt kinda’ awkward to his character at the beginning.

    • 2 haydenreviews
      February 14, 2009 at 11:04 pm

      I see your point, there is a little awkwardness with ‘Avner’, but I think this gives his character a certain mystique…After all, he did work for Mossad…Secrecy is a special agents’ thang.

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