At its core,Munichis a straightforward thriller. Based on the bookVengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Teamby George Jonas, its built on a relatively stock movie premise, the revenge plot: innocent people are killed, the bad guys got away with it, and someone has to make them pay. But director Steven Spielberg uses that as a starting point to delve into complex ethical questions about the cyclic nature of revenge and the moral price of violence. The movie starts with a rush. The opening portrays the kidnapping and murder of Israeli athletes by PLO terrorists at the 1972 Olympics with scenes as heart-stopping and terrifying as the best of any horror movie. After the tragic incident is over and several of the terrorists have gone free, the Israeli government of Golda Meir recruits Avner (Eric Bana) to lead a team of paid-off-the-book agents to hunt down those responsible throughout Europe, and eliminate them one-by-one (in reality, there were several teams). Its physically and emotionally messy work, and conflicts between Avner and his teams handler, Ephraim (Geoffrey Rush), over information Avner doesnt want to provide only make things harder. Soon the work starts to take its toll on Avner, and the deeper moral questions of right and wrong come into play, especially as it becomes clear that Avner is being hunted in return, and that his familys safety may be in jeopardy.
By all rights,Munichshould be an unqualified success--it has gripping subject matter relevant to current events; it was co-written by one of Americas greatest living playwrights (Tony Kushner,Angels in America) and an accomplished screenwriter (Eric Roth); it stars an appealing and likeable actor in Eric Bana; and it was helmed by Steven Spielberg, of all people. While it certainly is a great movie, it falls just short of the immense heights such talent should propel it to. This is due more to some questionable plot devices than anything else (such as the contrived use of a family of French informants to locate the terrorists). But while certain aspects ring hollow, the movie as a whole is a profound accomplishment, despite being only "inspired by true events," and not factually based on them. From the ferocious beginning to the unforgettable closing shot,Munichworks on a visceral level while making a poignant plea for peace, and issuing an unmistakable warning about the destructive cycle of terror and revenge. As one of the characters intones, "There is no peace at the end of this."--Daniel Vancini
"A STEVEN SPIELBERG FILM" 4.5 stars. Just above the title of the movie on the cover of this DVD, in bold capital letters, reads "A STEVEN SPIELBERG FILM." There is no critical examination more accurate than to say this is truly his creation. This is a technically impressive film, his most inspired filmmaking since "Saving Private Ryan," whereas in both films the art of cinema frequently takes precedence over anything else. Characterization and/or emotional context takes a proverbial back seat to cinematography, tricky and intense direction, and authentic atmosphere drawn from 1970s cinema. The extremely high-level at which this is all achieved makes it difficult for the actors, indeed any that might have been cast, to attain such lofty excellence. Having the stone-faced Eric Bana ("The Hulk") as the lead character doesn't help, but Mr. Spielberg wrings Eric Bana for all the emotion he is worth and makes his performance at least passable under the circumstances. One of the many aspects of this film that I loved was Spielberg's ode to top 1970s directors like Francis Ford Coppola and Brian DePalma where the stylistic quality of the film shines with all the adoration of an appreciative admirer. Indeed, it was nostalgic just to imagine this film coming from Steven Spielberg during his early years of mega-blockbusters such as "Jaws" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" where all the characters wore signature 1970s haircuts and all were clothed in paisely and starched polyester. In all seriousness, this is an exceptionally "well-made" film with all the impressive qualities of one of the finest directors of all-time helming the project. Thank you.A SURPRISINGLY GREAT FILM OUT OF HOLLYWOOD! Speilberg surprised me with this. It is a truly open-minded story based on the aftermath of the Munich Olympic massacre in 1972. It would have been easy to villainize the Palestinians for this act. And they certainly would have earned it for what they did. But Speilberg uses the atrocity to illustrate that there are in fact legitimate and understandable reasons for an uprising. And only when we really look at that can we move toward peace. Politics aside though is it a great film on it's own? Yes! Especially if you like girlies- that Dutch assasin- wow! I would have said f-it and let her bribe me into not killing her. This is a great action-adventure/drama with some great comedic bits thrown in as well. I am not going to spoil it by recapping the storyline. Just see it.'Home is all that matters' Attempting to understand what drives people to kill other people for any reason is, in the pit of the soul, a challenging enigma. Whether that 'reason' is war between countries at odds, protecting one's self when endangered, revenge or vengeance for deeds perpetrated by 'the other', for panic in the moment of survival - each of these feels wrong despite the fundamental belief to the contrary at the moment of killing. MUNICH is about killing, about vengeance, about protection of 'home', about existence in a world so bifurcated by age-old schisms, and about us. And while absorbing all of the 2 1/2 hour plus visual and philosophical information put forth in this epic film, the viewer is so paralyzed by the story that blinking for a second seems irreverent.
The tragedy of the 1972 Olympics - the brutal kidnapping and murder of eleven Israeli athletes by masked Arab/Palestinian marauders - is brought to the screen with brave and gutsy realism by a brilliant script by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth based on George Jonas' book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team, directed with straightforward, no-nonsense sensitivity to all participants by Steven Spielberg, and brought to life by a cast that simply could not be finer. From the opening of the film sans credits with the Black September act of breaking into the Olympic games in Munich, the film moves swiftly through the formation of an anti-terrorist league of Israeli assassins whose job it is to hunt down the killers and murder them, to the final painfully unsettled end. This is all under the instruction and guidance of Golda Meir (brilliantly played by Lynn Cohen) and her advisors.
The team of Avner (Eric Bana), Steve (Daniel Craig), Carl (Ciaran Hinds), Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz), Hans (Hanns Zischler), and Mossad Accountant (Oded Teomi) are instructed by Ephraim (Geoffrey Rush) and stripped of their identities to enter this mission. They roam the world based on information purchased from a secret group led by Louis (Mathieu Amalric) and Papa (Michael Lonsdale). Gradually growing into the roles of assassins the group begins to murder each of the perpetrators until their success is noticed by all manner of secret agencies (including the American CIA) and the tables are turned: the lives of the Israeli assassins are as endangered as those of the Arab murderers. In a particularly touching moment in the dark, Avner and a Palestinian soldier debate the need for the state of Israel and the opposite need for holding onto home by the Palestinian: it is a moment of writing that sums up the entire Israeli conflict.
The cinematography by Janusz Kaminski and the music score by the always fine John Williams add dimensions of atmosphere to this dark film, but it is Spielberg doing what he does best in directing attention to moments in history that will never be buried that makes this phenomenal movie an emotional experience for everyone, no matter their political or religious beliefs. It is simply a brilliant film about the need for Home - that sacred place whether internal or external that maintains the reason to live and even to die for it. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, May 06