Nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Munich is undoubtedly director Steven Spielberg’s best work since Band of Brothers (2001). At 2 hours and 44 minutes, the film moves along at a surprisingly quick pace. Spielberg makes adequate use of the time, providing added depth to the characters and illustrating the changes each undertakes in the course of his mission.
Writers Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, the latter of whom is best known for Forrest Gump (1994), team well together in producing a splendid screenplay. The characters are well-rounded and the dialogue well-constructed. Instead of aiming for zinging one-liners or melodramatic sound-bites, Kushner and Roth craft the film’s dialogue to mark the pace of the of story, illustrate character motivations, and make subtle but not overblown commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Overall, it makes for an enjoyable and worthwhile movie experience.
Munich chronicles the historical events of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany in which a Palestinian terrorist group known as Black September storms the Olympic Village. While the entire world watches, 11 of the terrorists evade capture after murdering 12 Israeli hostages. Torn between calls for peace and vengeance, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (Lynn Cohen) orders Mossad to form a secret unit of assassins to hunt down and eliminate the perpetrators.
Mossad agent Avner (Eric Bana) is tasked with heading a team of five individuals composed of himself and four others known only as Steve (Daniel Craig), Carl (Ciaram Hinds), Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz), and Hans (Hanns Zischler). Each man is chosen for the unique skill set he brings to the table, and the group is left to its own devices when it comes to locating and killing the 11 terrorists who are scattered throughout Continental Europe. Methodically, they carry out the mission. But as they eliminate their enemies one-by-one, each man must grapple with the transformative influence such a job has on his perception of life, family, and country.
Munich is a superb film which performs well in exploring the common theme of black versus white and the gray areas in between. Given the wide range of differing accents, it’s sometimes difficult to understand the characters, but this becomes a strength because it heightens viewer senses and breathes life into the story. Much like The Passion Of The Christ, the use of subtitles and various accents doesn’t detract from the film, but instead helps transform it in a production seemingly more worthy of serious attention than an alternative cartoon-like, James Bond rendition. As such, Munich doesn’t spell things out for the audience like a typical Hollywood blockbuster. No dates or geographical locations appear onscreen, and character dialogue doesn’t insult the viewer by recounting historical events. To better understand what’s happening, it helps to know the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Overall, Munich is a solid film. It does an excellent job of portraying the conflicts between Arab/Israeli and Muslim/Jew without rationalizing or portraying either side as totally good or totally evil. Instead, the two sides are seen as fellow human beings, each longing for essentially the same human desires for peace, love of family, and identity with a homeland. Unfortunately, these desires are attainable only in the context of the other side’s defeat.